Panpsychism in the West
326 pp., 6 x 9 in,
- Published: April 29, 2005
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: January 26, 2007
- Publisher: The MIT Press
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.
Panpsychism is a rarely named but nevertheless perennial and influential subcurrent in the history of Western philosophy. David Skrbina does us a crucial service by offering a wonderfully comprehensive historical overview of an idea whose time is, perhaps, about to come.
Freya Mathews, School of Philosophy, LaTrobe University, Australia
...a very interesting and I think important, book....very impressive. It raises a number of very important questions...and it suggests a number of important directions for important research.
...a valuable, readable work. I liked the book very much and recommend it highly to any reader interested in pondering alternatives to our depersonalizing, dehumanizing, mechanizing, scientistic, disenchanted and disenchanting worldview and practices.
Metapsychology Online Reviews
...a very comprehensive treatment, worthy of five stars. Skrbina writes about my favored panpsychists: C.S. Peirce; A.N. Whitehead, Teilhard de Chardin, and C. Hartshorne. He makes a very impressive case for panpsychism, taking us into modern time. His book is must reading.
Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research
As Skrbina shows in this book, panpsychism is one of the oldest of all philosophical doctrines extant and was put forth by the ancient Greeks, in particular Thales and Plato. Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz who laid down the intellectual foundations for the Age of Englightenment argued for it, as did Arthur Schopenhauer, William James, the father of American psychology, and the Jesuit and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin. Skrbina's volume gives a great introduction to this doctrine and its reception in the west, from ancient times until today.
Skrbina argues that panpsychism is nearly everywhere in the history of philsophy of mind, a startling view we might call 'panpanpsychismism.' This rollicking history tour is detailed and complete enough both to school philosophers of mind, and to provoke historians of philosophy of mind. In assembling many historical and contemporary arguments, it also sets the agenda for contemporary friends and foes of panpsychism.
Eric Lormand, Department of Philosophy, University of Michigan
Panpsychism in the West provides a long overdue and much needed reexamination of this age-old doctrine, one which still retains some fascination for modern philosophy of mind. Skrbina's brisk, no-nonsense approach reveals the amazing influence panpsychism has had throughout the history of philosophy as a persistent counterweight to the rise of mechanistic science and scientistic philosophy. This book will be of immense use to students and of great interest to anyone who cares to see the full range of philosophical opinion as it has evolved over the centuries.
William Seager, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto at Scarborough