Mind Stuffed with Red Herrings: Why William James’ Critique of the Mind-Stuff Theory Does not Substantiate a Combination Problem for Panpsychism [Book Review]

Acta Analytica 25 (4):413-434 (2010)
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Abstract

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 logical consequences, are just as inedible to contemporary critics of panpsychism as they are to its present-day supporters. Hence, a naïve employment of the argument, as a critique leveled by physicalists against panpsychism, is counterproductive and even self-defeating. After examining the metaphysical shortcomings undermining James’ position , I conclude with some reflections on what needs to be done in order to obtain a better perspective regarding the explanatory prospects of panpsychism as an alternative approach to mainstream physicalism in the study of conscious phenomena

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Itay Shani
Sun Yat Sen University, Zhuhai Campus

Citations of this work

The Combination Problem for Panpsychism.David Chalmers - 2016 - In Godehard Brüntrup & Ludwig Jaskolla (eds.), Panpsychism. Oxford University Press.
Panpsychism.William E. Seager, Philip Goff & Sean Allen-Hermanson - 2022 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Why I am not a dualist.Karen Bennett - 2021 - Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Mind 1:208-231.
Real acquaintance and physicalism.Philip Goff - 2015 - In Paul Coates & Sam Coleman (eds.), Phenomenal Qualities: Sense, Perception and Consciousness. Oxford University Press.

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References found in this work

The Principles of Psychology.William James - 1890 - London, England: Dover Publications.
Facing up to the problem of consciousness.David Chalmers - 1995 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (3):200-19.

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