Presence and Panpsychism

William Seager, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto


Panpsychism holds that consciousness is a fundamental feature of the world which is very wide spread (how wide spread depends upon the nature of the fundamental entities of the world). The natural route towards panpsychism is to deny that consciousness could emerge from a fundamentally non-conscious reality. A different route, reminiscent of William James's neutral monism, begins with what I will call "presence" as fundamental. When we have a conscious experience we are presented with something. This is an undeniable aspect of the world in the sense that if it was taken to be illusory then it would be possible for nothing to exist while my experience remained the same! Presence is open to us all, but obscured by our ways of thinking about it, especially by the categories of "mental" and "physical", "self" and "other". I want to explore the view that arises by taking presence as basic and, to use the phrase of Mark Johnson, regarding experiencers not as sources of presence but rather samplers of presence.