Suggested reading: The mental life of mountains

by Keith Frankish

Panpsychism is the doctrine that everything has a mind, or at least a mental aspect. It says that there is no sharp division between us, with our rich mental lives, and the rest of the world. Our minds are just complex forms of something that is present everywhere, and the whole universe – mountains, clouds, asteroids, dust – is infused with mental life. It is a beguiling view, which has appealed not only to poets and mystics but also to those seeking to understand the place of mind in the natural world. Many philosophers, from ancient times through to the early 20th century, have endorsed a version of it.

The view fell out of fashion in the mid-20th century as philosophers increasingly adopted a materialist outlook, which identifies minds with functioning brains. In recent years, however, panpsychism has undergone a philosophical renaissance, and it is now presented at major conferences and debated in mainstream journals. The contemporary form is somewhat different from older versions. It concerns only one aspect of the mind – consciousness – and it focuses on the presence of this aspect at the fundamental physical level. … (continue at New Humanist)