Abstract Details

Field Panpsychism  Greg Horne (Philosophy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario Canada)   P1

Panpsychism is the view that phenomenal consciousness is a fundamental and ubiquitous property in nature. This view is seen as a compelling solution to the hard problem of consciousness, but faces a central challenge in the "subject combination problem:" how do fundamental subjects of experience give rise to macroscopic subjects of experience like humans are? Two popular avenues to addressing this problem differ in the scale at which they locate the fundamental level of consciousness: Micropsychism is the view that fundamental conscious subjects are microscopic and that all other subjects are sums of these, while cosmopsychism is the view that the fundamental conscious subject is the entire cosmos and that all other subjects are aspects or fragments of it. On both of these views, mid-sized subjects, such as human subjects, are non-fundamental. Neither view is widely accepted to explain how mid-sized subjects can maintain distinct existence from, rather than collapsing into, the fundamental level. In this talk, I will suggest that a common Cartesian presupposition about minds underlies both of these views: that subjects of experience are fundamentally cut off from one another, or as William James puts it, conscious subjects are "shut in [their] own skin, ignorant of what the others are and mean" (1890, 160). By rejecting this Cartesian tenet, a third version of panpsychism comes into view: Field panpsychism, on which consciousness at the fundamental level is a continuous field in which apparently isolated subjects are wave formations that blend into one another at their peripheries. On this view, all subjects, including human subjects, are different portions of the basic field, and thus all subjects are fundamental. This view explains the stability of mid-sized subjects, as well as sheds new light on mental combination in general. I discuss these advantages of field panpsychism as well as address two core challenges to it.