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. (shrink)
Panpsychism is the view that all things have a mind, or a mind-like quality. Contrary to the common view that panpsychism is a fringe or 'absurd' theory of mind, it in fact has a long and noble tradition within western philosophy. In the forms of animism and polytheism, panpsychism was the dominant view for most if not all of the pre-historical era. In the early years of western thought it was widely accepted though not often explicitly argued for. The emergence (...) of Aristotelian philosophy and Christian theology subverted it for a number of centuries, but it made a comeback with early Renaissance naturalist philosophers of the sixteenth century. Though still a minority view, it grew steadily in support through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, reaching a zenith in the late 1800s and early 1900s. With the advent of logical positivism and linguistic/analytic philosophy, panpsychism was once again driven down to a relatively low status. In the past few years, however, panpsychism has once more become the topic of serious philosophical inquiry. (shrink)
Unlike conventional ethical theory, environmental ethics—and eco-philosophy generally—have frequently been able to escape the desiccating rigors of analytical thinking. This is due in large part to the nonconforming and creative work of people like Henryk Skolimowski, whose ideas have influenced the philosophical dialogue for nearly 40 years now. The guiding principle of his new worldview, that the world is a sanctuary and not a machine, implies a radically expanded conception of eco-ethics. And his metaphysical stance of noetic monism demands that (...) mind and reality be taken together, as a unit. These ideas fit well with the recent trend in philosophy of mind toward panexperientialist ontologies. Collectively, such notions point toward the concept of universal intrinsic value in nature, and a concomitant form of ethics that I call “universal sympathy.”. (shrink)
For some two millennia, Western civilization has predominantly viewed mind and consciousness as the private domain of the human species. Some have been willing to extend these qualities to certain animals. And there has been a small but very significant minority of philosophers who have argued that the processes of mind are universal in extent, and resident in all material things.
In its original Greek conception, philosophy was intended to promote both wisdom and virtue among society; in this sense, the teaching, or presenting, of philosophy is central to its essence. Socrates and Plato famously grappled with the question of how to impart wisdom and virtue to the learner, with mixed results. One of the standard methods—reading and writing—was argued to be misleading and even deceptive, because it deals with static, ‘dead’ words and ideas rather than with the “living discourse” of (...) one person speaking directly to another. This general critique of certain ‘technologies’ of learning is even more relevant today, in our technological age, where the presenting of philosophy often involves computers, laptops, and the Internet. Such things come to function as addictive drugs—much like the pharmakon that Plato warned of. Philosophy would thus be better served by less use of mediating technologies and by a return to live, interactive, living dialogue between student and teacher. (shrink)