There has recently been a resurgence of interest in panpsychism in academic philosophy. Many hope that panpsychism can provide an attractive way of solving the hard problem of consciousness, avoiding the deep difficulties associated with the more conventional options of dualism and materialism. In the first session of the workshop we will focus on cosmopsychism, the form of panpsychism according to which the universe is itself a conscious entity and facts about human minds are grounded in facts about the cosmic mind, with Angela Mendelovici speaking in favour and Luke Roelofs speaking against. In the second session, we will consider a couple of critiques of panpsychism, one philosophical (David Bourget) and one empirical (Philip Woodward). In the final session, Philip Goff will consider whether panpsychism can help with philosophical problems pertaining to free will.
Center for Digital Philosophy
University of Western Ontario, London, Canada
Philip Goff (chair)
Department of Philosophy
University of Durham, UK
Department of Philosophy
University of Western Ontario, London, Canada
Institute for Philosophy
University of Bochum, Germany
Valparaiso University, USA
Complexity without Combination: Panpsychism without the Combination Problem
Panpsychism is the view that the phenomenal experiences of non-fundamental items, like, presumably, human subjects, are nothing over and above the phenomenal experiences of fundamental items combined in a certain way. Perhaps the biggest problem for panpsychism is the combination problem, the problem of explaining how exactly the hypothesized fundamental experiences combine to form experiences such as our own. This talk considers two apparent cases of mental combination that we might want to accept independent of a commitment to panpsychism: those of phenomenal unity and intentional structure. I argue that these cases cannot be intelligibly explained in terms of mental combination. They suggest, instead, a non-combinatorial view on which mental items can be complex, in that they can contain as parts mental items of the same type, without being mere combinations of those items. If this kind of picture is also true of the kind of mental complexity required by panpsychism, this rules out all but cosmopsychist (of the kind developed by Philip Goff) and similar versions of the view.
Angela Mendelovici is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario. She obtained her PhD from Princeton University and completed a postdoc at the Australian National University. Her research is in philosophy of mind, focusing on consciousness, intentionality, and the relationship between the two. Her recent book, The Phenomenal Basis of Intentionality, provides a systematic defense of a radically internalistic theory of the mind on which all represented contents are either phenomenal contents that are “before our mind’s eye” or expressly singled out by us. Website: http://publish.uwo.ca/~amendel5/
Why I Am Not a Cosmopsychist (or Am I?)
Cosmopsychism is a variant of panpsychism which adds, to the defining panpsychist idea that the fundamental things are conscious, that there is only one fundamental thing, the universe. Cosmopsychists sometimes suggest that this gives them a major advantage over ‘micropsychists’ (who think that the fundamental things are very many and very small) in addressing the combination problem, or in accommodating their view to modern physics. In my recent book, I defend a version of constitutive panpsychism (‘Panpsychist Combinationism’) that comes very close to cosmopsychism, but doesn’t quite qualify by most standard definitions. I examine the way the debate between cosmopsychism and micropsychism is usually framed, and my reasons for dissatisfaction with this framing. In doing so I try to articulate why I don’t think of Panpsychist Combinationism as either cosmopsychist or micropsychist and why I’m sceptical of claims that cosmopsychism makes a crucial explanatory difference.
Luke Roelofs is a postdoctoral researcher at Ruhr-University Bochum, working on a variety of topics in philosophy of mind. His new book ‘Combining Minds’ deals with the combination problem and related issues around mental combination.
Russellian Panpsychism and the Heart of the Hard Problem
Russellian panpsychism is supposed to help with the hard problem of consciousness by reconciling the largely a priori position that phenomenal properties don’t reduce to “structure and function” with the existence of mental-to-physical causation in a causally closed physical world, thereby avoiding the dilemma constituted by traditional physicalist and dualist positions. But this dilemma is not the heart of the hard problem. The heart of the problem is the mapping problem, roughly, the lack of an explanatory pattern in mind-body associations. This is a challenge that both dualists and physicalists have to contend with within their respective metaphysical frameworks. In this talk, I argue that panpsychism is strictly worse than the alternatives when it comes to dealing with the mapping problem.
David Bourget is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Digital Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario. His research focuses on the place of consciousness in the mind and nature, topics on which he has published numerous articles.
The Selection Problem for Constitutive Panpsychism
Constitutive panpsychism is the doctrine that macro-level consciousness is built out of irreducibly mental (or proto-mental) features had by some or all of the ultimate physical constituents of reality. I pose the ‘selection problem’ for constitutive panpsychism: the problem of explaining why/how macro-level consciousness changes over time. For the constitutive panpsychist, changes in macro-level consciousness amount to changes in either the way that micro-conscious entities ‘bond’ or the way that micro-conscious qualities ‘blend’ (or both). We have learned from contemporary neurobiology that changes in consciousness are dependent on high-level functional states of the brain. I argue that it is empirically implausible that any mediating mechanism connects high-level functional states of the brain with changes in bonding/blending at the micro-level, and thus that the selection problem is unsolvable.
Philip Woodward is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and member of the Neuroscience Program at Valparaiso University in the United States. His research is on philosophy of mind and philosophical anthropology, especially on the nature and psychological role of consciousness.
Panpsychism and Free Will
There has been a resurgence of interest in panpsychism in contemporary philosophy of mind. Many hope that panpsychism can provide an attractive way of solving the hard problem of consciousness, avoiding the deep difficulties associated with the more conventional options of dualism and materialism. There has been little focus, however, on whether panpsychism can help with philosophical problems pertaining to free will. I will argue for that it is coherent and consistent with observation to ascribe a kind of libertarian free will to particles, resulting in a view which we can call ‘pan-libertarianism.’ I will not argue that we have reason to think this view is true, but I will suggest that if one is already motivated to believe in libertarian free will, then one has reason to prefer the pan-libertarian view over more conventional forms of libertarianism.
Philip Goff is a philosopher and consciousness researcher at Durham University. His first book Consciousness and Fundamental Reality was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. He has recently finished a book aimed at a general audience, Galileo's Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, which will be published in August 2019 by Rider in UK and Pantheon in US. Goff has published over 40 articles in academic journals and has also written for newspapers and magazines, such the Guardian, Aeon, the Times Literary Supplement and Philosophy Now. He blogs at www.conscienceandconsciousness.com.
Website: www.philipgoffphilosophy.com Twitter: @philip_goff