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Summary

In contemporary analytic philosophy of mind panpsychism is interpreted as the thesis that ‘all fundamental entities are conscious’: whatever the fundamentalia are, there is something which it is like to be them. This view has evolved as a response to the problem of the place of consciousness in nature, and to the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness. The combination problem is the most significant and pressing problem for the panpsychist. Stated generally, the combination problem is the problem of how precisely the fundamental conscious minds come to compose, constitute, or give rise to some further, additional conscious mind (especially our own). The reason this problem is so pressing is that it threatens to undermine any theoretical advantage that panpsychism may have had over dualism or physicalism, i.e. the combination problem undermines panpsychism as a response to the ‘hard problem’ and the place of consciousness is nature. The combination problem has been presented in several ways and broken down into more specific problems and arguments over the years. It is usually taken to be the case that every aspect of mentality can ground some form of combination problem. A recent taxonomy suggests there is: the subject combination problem, grounded in the observation that experiences are had by subjects; the quality combination problem, grounded in the fact that experience involves a certain qualitatively; the structure combination problem, grounded in the observation that conscious experience has a complex structure. Some of these aspects of mentality generate more pernicious combination problems than others, and it is generally accepted to be the case that the ‘subject summing’ problem is the most pernicious problem facing contemporary panpsychists. Not all forms of the combination problem have the general form ‘how do the mental entities Xs constitute some mental entity Y’, asking how some mental entities add up. Many others ask ‘how could some mental entity Y be composed of some mental entities Xs’, the problem here being that many of the features of our mental lives seem to be unanalysable, simple, or non-decomposable. All forms of the combination problem require responses from the panpsychist, but not all responses will be combinatorial in nature. Non-combinatorial form of panpsychism (viz. ‘emergent’ or ‘identity’ forms of panpsychism) will not face combination problems.

Key works

Most key texts on panpsychism mention the combination problem, at least in passing. There are, however, fuller and more detailed treatments of it. The following are some of those treatments. William James’ ‘The Principles of Psychology’ James 1890 contains a highly-cited treatment of the combination problem.  William Seager Seager 1995 cites James as the source of the problem, at the same time coining the name ‘the combination problem’ and bringing it back into mainstream discourse. James, however, also gives an extensive discussion in his ‘A Pluralistic Universe’ James 1977. In this later text James claims that the problem is insoluble, and he also focuses on what are often called ‘de-combination problems’ too – James’ focus was absolute idealism as well as mind-dust theory. Timothy Sprigge also gives an extensive treatment of the combination problem in his 1983 work ‘The Vindication of Absolute Idealism’ Sprigge 1983. Here Sprigge goes over James’ discussions in more detail and also introduces some solutions and new problems himself. Michael Lockwood’s paper ‘the Grain Problem’ Lockwood 1993 is another treatment of the combination problem, however Lockwood’s focus is on the structural and qualitative combination problems. Two recent discussions of the combination problem are David Chalmers’ paper Chalmers 2016 along with Philip Goff’s chapters 7 and 8 in Goff 2017.

Introductions

Chalmers’ Chalmers 2016 paper focusing on the combination problem is a very good introduction and sets the scene for most of the contemporary debate. Along with outlining the problem, it also outlines some potential solutions for the panpsychist and assesses their viability. Michael Lockwood’s Lockwood 1993 is also a good introduction to the problem, along with chapters 7&8 in Philip Goff’s Goff 2017. Luke Roelofs Roelofs 2015 introduces many of the combination problems, along with assessing their basis in intuition and potential solutions to them. David Skrbina’s Skrbina 2005 history of panpsychism also contains many introductory passages on the combination problem, seen at different stages within history and in the hands of different philosophers.

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38 found
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  1. added 2019-06-06
    Mental Chemistry1: Combination for Panpsychists.Sam Coleman - 2012 - Dialectica 66 (1):137-166.
    Panpsychism, an increasingly popular competitor to physicalism as a theory of mind, faces a famous difficulty, the ‘combination problem’. This is the difficulty of understanding the composition of a conscious mind by parts which are themselves taken to be phenomenally qualitied. I examine the combination problem, and I attempt to solve it. There are a few distinct difficulties under the banner of ‘the combination problem’, and not all of them need worry panpsychists. After homing in on the genuine worries, I (...)
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  2. added 2019-06-06
    It Must Be True – But How Can It Be? Some Remarks on Panpsychism and Mental Composition: Pierfrancesco Basile.Pierfrancesco Basile - 2010 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 67:93-112.
    Although panpsychism has had a very long history, one that goes back to the very origin of western philosophy, its force has only recently been appreciated by analytic philosophers of mind. And even if many still reject the theory as utterly absurd, others have argued that it is the only genuine form of physicalism. This paper examines the case for panpsychism and argues that there are at least good prima facie reasons for taking it seriously. In a second step, the (...)
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  3. added 2018-12-21
    Beyond Combination: How Cosmic Consciousness Grounds Ordinary Experience.Itay Shani & Joachim Keppler - 2018 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 4 (3):390-410.
    The aim of this paper is twofold. First, our purpose is to propose and motivate a novel and scientifically informed variant of cosmopsychism, namely, the view that the experiences of ordinary subjects are ultimately grounded in an all-pervading cosmic consciousness. Second, we will demonstrate that this approach generates promising avenues for addressing familiar problems of phenomenal constitution. We use stochastic electrodynamics (SED) as the physical bedrock of our approach, supplementing it with key insights about the nature of consciousness long emphasized (...)
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  4. added 2018-12-13
    Mind and Matter.Jiri Benovsky - 2018 - Springer Verlag.
    In this book, Jiri Benovsky takes a stand for a variant of panpsychism as being the best solution available to the mind-body problem. More exactly, he defends a view that can be labelled 'dual-aspect-pan-proto-psychism'. Panpsychism claims that mentality is ubiquitous to reality, and in combination with dual-aspect monism it claims that anything, from fundamental particles to rocks, trees, and human animals, has two aspects: a physical aspect and a mental aspect. In short, the view is that the nature of reality (...)
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  5. added 2018-11-06
    Combining Minds: How to Think About Composite Subjectivity.Luke Roelofs - 2019 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    This book explores a neglected philosophical question: How do groups of interacting minds relate to singular minds? Could several of us, by organizing ourselves the right way, constitute a single conscious mind that contains our minds as parts? And could each of us have been, all along, a group of mental parts in close cooperation? Scientific progress seems to be slowly revealing that all the different physical objects around us are, at root, just a matter of the right parts put (...)
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  6. added 2018-07-24
    Panpsychism, The Combination Problem, and Plural Collective Properties.Einar Duenger Bohn - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (2):383-394.
    I develop and defend a version of panpsychism that avoids the combination problem by appealing to plural collective properties.
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  7. added 2018-05-26
    The Universe in Consciousness.Bernardo Kastrup - 2018 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 25 (5-6):125-155.
    I propose an idealist ontology that makes sense of reality in a more parsimonious and empirically rigorous manner than mainstream physicalism, bottom-up panpsychism, and cosmopsychism. The proposed ontology also offers more explanatory power than these three alternatives, in that it does not fall prey to the hard problem of consciousness, the combination problem, or the decombination problem, respectively. It can be summarized as follows: there is only cosmic consciousness. We, as well as all other living organisms, are but dissociated alters (...)
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  8. added 2018-02-21
    Is the Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness Compatible with Russellian Panpsychism?Hedda Hassel Mørch - 2018 - Erkenntnis:1-21.
    The Integrated Information Theory (IIT) is a leading scientific theory of consciousness, which implies a kind of panpsychism. In this paper, I consider whether IIT is compatible with a particular kind of panpsychism known as Russellian panpsychism, which purports to avoid the main problems of both physicalism and dualism. I will first show that if IIT were compatible with Russellian panpsychism, it would contribute to solving Russellian panpsychism’s combination problem, which threatens to show that the view does not avoid the (...)
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  9. added 2018-02-17
    Consciousness and Fundamental Reality.Philip Goff - 2017 - New York, USA: Oup Usa.
    The first half of this book argues that physicalism cannot account for consciousness, and hence cannot be true. The second half explores and defends Russellian monism, a radical alternative to both physicalism and dualism. The view that emerges combines panpsychism with the view that the universe as a whole is fundamental.
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  10. added 2018-02-09
    Against Deflation of the Subject.Nesic Janko - 2017 - Filozofija I Društvo 28 (4):1102-1121.
    I will argue that accounts of mineness and pre-reflective self-awareness can be helpful to panpsychists in solving the combination problems. A common strategy in answering the subject combination problem in panpsychism is to deflate the subject, eliminating or reducing subjects to experience. Many modern panpsychist theories are deflationist or endorse deflationist accounts of subjects, such as Parfit’s reductionism of personal identity and G. Strawson’s identity view. To see if there can be deflation we need to understand what the subject/self is. (...)
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  11. added 2018-01-13
    Panpsychism’s Combination Problem Is a Problem for Everyone.Angela Mendelovici - 2019 - In William Seager (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Panpsychism. London, UK: Routledge.
    The most pressing worry for panpsychism is arguably the combination problem, the problem of intelligibly explaining how the experiences of microphysical entities combine to form the experiences of macrophysical entities such as ourselves. This chapter argues that the combination problem is similar in kind to other problems of mental combination that are problems for everyone: the problem of phenomenal unity, the problem of mental structure, and the problem of new quality spaces. The ubiquity of combination problems suggests the ignorance hypothesis, (...)
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  12. added 2017-10-20
    The Quest to Solve Problems That Don’T Exist: Thought Artifacts in Contemporary Ontology.Bernardo Kastrup - 2017 - Studia Humana 6 (4):45-51.
    Questions about the nature of reality and consciousness remain unresolved in philosophy today, but not for lack of hypotheses. Ontologies as varied as physicalism, microexperientialism and cosmopsychism enrich the philosophical menu. Each of these ontologies faces a seemingly fundamental problem: under physicalism, for instance, we have the ‘hard problem of consciousness,’ whereas under microexperientialism we have the ‘subject combination problem.’ I argue that these problems are thought artifacts, having no grounding in empirical reality. In a manner akin to semantic paradoxes, (...)
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  13. added 2017-08-17
    An Analytic Perspective on Panpsychism: A Book Review of Brüntrup & Ludwig Jaskolla (Eds.), Panpsychism: Contemporary Perspectives. [REVIEW]Gregory Nixon - 2017 - Metascience 26 (3):471-474.
    This is an important collection in that it fleshes out the vague postulate of panpsychism with a detailed analysis of how it might be understood (if not exactly what it might mean). For the many skeptics who simply dismiss the very idea as ridiculous, there is much here to demonstrate that a good deal of serious thought has gone into this ancient proposal. There are many ways to interpret panpsychism, and they are well represented in this group of philosophers, each (...)
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  14. added 2017-07-31
    The Combination Problem for Panpsychism.David Chalmers - 2016 - In Godehard Brüntrup & Ludwig Jaskolla (eds.), Panpsychism. Oxford University Press.
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  15. added 2017-04-12
    Normativity All the Way Down: From Normative Realism to Pannormism.Einar Bohn - 2018 - Synthese 195 (9):4107-4124.
    In this paper, I provide an argument for pannormism, the view according to which there are normative properties all the way down. In particular, I argue for what I call the trickling down principle, which says that if there is a metaphysically basic normative property, then, if whatever instantiates it has a ground, that ground instantiates it as well.
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  16. added 2016-10-14
    Combining Minds: A Defence of the Possibility of Experiential Combination.Luke Roelofs - 2015 - Dissertation, University of Toronto
    This thesis explores the possibility of composite consciousness: phenomenally conscious states belonging to a composite being in virtue of the consciousness of, and relations among, its parts. We have no trouble accepting that a composite being has physical properties entirely in virtue of the physical properties of, and relations among, its parts. But a long­standing intuition holds that consciousness is different: my consciousness cannot be understood as a complex of interacting component consciousnesses belonging to parts of me. I ask why: (...)
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  17. added 2016-08-31
    Avoiding Perennial Mind-Body Problems.Mostyn W. Jones - 2016 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 23 (9-10):111-133.
    Russell argued that we can’t know what brains are really like behind our perceptions of them, so minds can conceivably reside in brains. Physicalist-leaning Russellians from Feigl to Strawson try to avoid physicalist and dualist issues with this Russellian idea. Strawson also tries to avoid emergentist issues through panpsychism. Yet critics feel that these Russellians don’t really avoid these issues, but just recast them in new forms. For example, dualist issues arguably remain because it’s hard to see how private pains (...)
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  18. added 2016-08-31
    Neuroelectrical Approaches to Binding Problems.Mostyn W. Jones - 2016 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 2 (37).
    How do separate brain processes bind to form unified, conscious percepts? This is the perceptual binding problem, which straddles neuroscience and psychology. In fact, two problems exist here: (1) the easy problem of how neural processes are unified, and (2) the hard problem of how this yields unified perceptual consciousness. Binding theories face familiar troubles with (1) and they do not come to grips with (2). This paper argues that neuroelectrical (electromagnetic-field) approaches may help with both problems. Concerning the easy (...)
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  19. added 2016-04-13
    Cosmopsychism: A Holistic Approach to the Metaphysics of Experience.Itay Shani - 2015 - Philosophical Papers 44 (3):389-437.
    This paper introduces cosmopsychism as a holistic alternative to atomistic panpsychism, and as a general perspective on the metaphysics of consciousness. I begin with some necessary background details concerning contemporary panpsychism and the problems it faces, and then proceed to the theory itself. The starting point of the theory is the assumption that an all pervading cosmic consciousness is the single ontological ultimate. From this assumption, a panpsychist ontology of mind with distinct holistic overtones is developed. In particular, I argue (...)
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  20. added 2016-04-11
    The Combination Problem: Subjects and Unity.Kevin Morris - 2017 - Erkenntnis 82 (1):103-120.
    Panpsychism has often been motivated on the grounds that any attempt to account for experience and consciousness in organisms in purely physical, nonexperiential terms faces severe difficulties. The “combination problem” charges that attributing phenomenal properties to the basic constituents of organisms, as panpsychism proposes, likewise fails to provide a satisfactory basis for experience in humans and other organisms. This paper evaluates a recent attempt to understand, and solve, the combination problem. This approach, due to Sam Coleman, is premised on a (...)
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  21. added 2016-03-22
    Panpsychism and Neutral Monism: How to Make Up One's Mind.Sam Coleman - forthcoming - In Jaskolla Brüntrup (ed.), Panpsychism. Oxford University Press.
  22. added 2015-10-03
    Phenomenal Blending and the Palette Problem.Luke Roelofs - 2014 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):59-70.
    I discuss the apparent discrepancy between the qualitative diversity of consciousness and the relative qualitative homogeneity of the brain's basic constituents, a discrepancy that has been raised as a problem for identity theorists by Maxwell and Lockwood (as one element of the ‘grain problem’), and more recently as a problem for panpsychists (under the heading of ‘the palette problem’). The challenge posed to panpsychists by this discrepancy is to make sense of how a relatively small ‘palette’ of basic qualities could (...)
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  23. added 2015-08-23
    Mind and Being: The Primacy of Panpsychism.Galen Strawson - 2016 - In Godehard Brüntrup & Ludwig Jaskolla (eds.), Panpsychism: Contemporary Perspectives. Oxford University Press. pp. 000-00.
    I endorse a 12-word metaphysics. [1] Stoff ist Kraft ≈ being is energy. [2] Wesen ist Werden ≈ being is becoming. [3] Sein ist Sosein ≈ being is qualit[ativit]y. [4] Ansichsein ist Fürsichsein ≈ being is mind. [1]–[3] are plausible metaphysical principles and unprejudiced consideration of what we know about concrete reality obliges us to favor [4], i.e. panpsychism or panexperientialism, above all other positive substantive proposals. For [i] panpsychism is the most ontologically parsimonious view, given that the existence of (...)
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  24. added 2015-06-03
    Panpsychism and Causation: A New Argument and a Solution to the Combination Problem.Hedda Hassel Mørch - 2014 - Dissertation, Oslo
    Panpsychism is the view that every concrete and unified thing has some form of phenomenal consciousness or experience. It is an age-old doctrine, which, to the surprise of many, has recently taken on new life. In philosophy of mind, it has been put forth as a simple and radical solution to the mind–body problem (Chalmers 1996, 2003;Strawson 2006; Nagel 1979, 2012). In metaphysics and philosophy of science, it has been put forth as a solution to the problem of accounting for (...)
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  25. added 2014-10-22
    What Panpsychists Should Reject: On the Incompatibility of Panpsychism and Organizational Invariantism.Miguel Ángel Sebastián - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (7):1833-1846.
    Some philosophers, like David Chalmers, have either shown their sympathy for, or explicitly endorsed, the following two principles: Panpsychism—roughly the thesis that the mind is ubiquitous throughout the universe—and Organizational Invariantism—the principle that holds that two systems with the same fine-grained functional organization will have qualitatively identical experiences. The purpose of this paper is to show the tension between the arguments that back up both principles. This tension should lead, or so I will argue, defenders of one of the principles (...)
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  26. added 2014-07-17
    The Phenomenal Bonding Solution to the Combination Problem.Philip Goff - forthcoming - In L. Jaskolla (ed.), Panpsychism: Contemporary Perspectives. Oxford University Press.
  27. added 2014-07-17
    Against Constitutive Russellian Monism.Philip Goff - 2015 - In Yujin Nagasawa (ed.), Consciousness and the Physical World. Oxford University Press.
  28. added 2014-04-02
    Do the Primary and Secondary Intensions of Phenomenal Concepts Coincide in All Worlds?Robert Schroer - 2013 - Dialectica 67 (4):561-577.
    A slew of conceivability arguments have been given against physicalism. Many physicalists try to undermine these arguments by offering accounts of phenomenal concepts that explain how there can be an epistemic gap, but not an ontological gap, between the phenomenal and the physical. Some complain, however, that such accounts fail to do justice to the nature of our introspective grasp of phenomenal properties. A particularly influential version of this complaint comes from David Chalmers (1996; 2003), who claims, in opposition to (...)
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  29. added 2014-03-09
    Why Panpsychism Doesn't Help Us Explain Consciousness.Philip Goff - 2009 - Dialectica 63 (3):289-311.
    This paper starts from the assumption that panpsychism is counterintuitive and metaphysically demanding. A number of philosophers, whilst not denying these negative aspects of the view, think that panpsychism has in its favour that it offers a good explanation of consciousness. In opposition to this, the paper argues that panpsychism cannot help us to explain consciousness, at least not the kind of consciousness we have pre-theoretical reason to believe in.
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  30. added 2014-03-06
    Mind Stuffed with Red Herrings: Why William James’ Critique of the Mind-Stuff Theory Does Not Substantiate a Combination Problem for Panpsychism. [REVIEW]Itay Shani - 2010 - Acta Analytica 25 (4):413-434.
    There is a famous passage in chapter six of James’ Principles of Psychology whose import, many believe, deals a devastating blow to the explanatory aspirations of panpsychism. In the present paper I take a close look at James’ argument, as well as at the claim that it underlies a powerful critique of panpsychism. Apart from the fact that the argument was never aimed at panpsychism as such, I show that it rests on highly problematic assumptions which, if followed to their (...)
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  31. added 2014-03-04
    Review of Consciousness and its Place in Nature. [REVIEW]Barry Dainton - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (1):238-261.
  32. added 2014-02-21
    The Real Combination Problem: Panpsychism, Micro-Subjects, and Emergence.Sam Coleman - 2013 - Erkenntnis (1):1-26.
    Taking their motivation from the perceived failure of the reductive physicalist project concerning consciousness, panpsychists ascribe subjectivity to fundamental material entities in order to account for macro-consciousness. But there exists an unresolved tension within the mainstream panpsychist position, the seriousness of which has yet to be appreciated. I capture this tension as a dilemma, and offer advice to panpsychists on how to resolve it. The dilemma is as follows: Panpsychists take the micro-material realm to feature phenomenal properties, plus micro-subjects to (...)
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  33. added 2013-10-25
    Panpsychism Without Subjectivity? A Brief Commentary on Sam Coleman's 'Mental Chemistry' and 'The Real Combination Problem'.Michael Blamauer - 2013 - Panpsychism Without Subjectivity? A Brief Commentary on Sam Coleman’s ‘Mental Chemistry’ and ‘the Real Combination Problem’ (Online First).
    Blamauer, Michael_Panpsychism without Subjectivity (Online First).
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  34. added 2013-03-17
    Panpsychism, Aggregation and Combinatorial Infusion.William Seager - 2010 - Mind and Matter 8 (2):167-184.
    Deferential Monadic Panpsychism is a view that accepts that physical science is capable of discovering the basic structure of reality. However, it denies that reality is fully and exhaustively de- scribed purely in terms of physical science. Consciousness is missing from the physical description and cannot be reduced to it. DMP explores the idea that the physically fundamental features of the world possess some intrinsic mental aspect. It thereby faces a se- vere problem of understanding how more complex mental states (...)
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  35. added 2013-03-17
    Experiences Don't Sum.Philip Goff - 2006 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 13 (10-11):53-61.
  36. added 2013-03-17
    Amplifying Phenomenal Information: Toward a Fundamental Theory of Consciousness.Liane Gabora - 2002 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 9 (8):3-29.
    from non-conscious components by positing that consciousness is a universal primitive. For example, the double aspect theory of information holds that infor- mation has a phenomenal aspect. How then do you get from phenomenal infor- mation to human consciousness? This paper proposes that an entity is conscious to the extent it amplifies information, first by trapping and integrating it through closure, and second by maintaining dynamics at the edge of chaos through simul- taneous processes of divergence and convergence. The origin (...)
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  37. added 2012-11-06
    Raymond Ruyer, la Biologie Et la Théologie Naturelle [Raymond Ruyer, Biology, and Natural Theology].Philippe Gagnon - 2012 - In Ronny Desmet & Michel Weber (eds.), Chromatikon VIII: Annales de la philosophie en procès — Yearbook of Philosophy in Process. Éditions Chromatika.
    This is the outline: Introduction : le praticien d’une science-philosophie; Épiphénoménisme retourné et subjectivité délocalisée; Dieu est-il jamais inféré par la science ?; La question du panthéisme; Le pilotage axiologique et la parabole mécaniste; L'unité domaniale comme ce qui reste en dehors de la science.
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  38. added 2012-10-15
    Skrbina's *Mind That Abides: Panpsychism in the New Millennium*. [REVIEW]Gregory Nixon - 2009 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 16 (9):116-121.
    Is the great god Pan reborn? For a while there, it seemed every intellectual movement began with the prefix ‘post’, implying non-totality, but now there are indications that ‘pan’ (all) is returning to provide another answer to one of the most basic of ontological questions: What is the relationship of mind to matter? In this important book with 17 different authors, panpsychism is given its due.
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