Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cunning - Skrbina's 'Panpsychism in the West'

"This is a very interesting, and I think important, book. It is not without problems, some of which are considered below, and some of which might be regarded as intractable. But first a survey of the general themes of the book is in order.

One of the themes is that the doctrine that "all things have mind or a mind-like quality" (2) is pervasive in the history of human thought. The list of figures to whom Skrbina attributes the doctrine is impressive. Some are notable philosophers of the ancient period: Thales, Anaximenes, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Zeno of Citium, and Cicero. One of Skrbina's aims is to argue that panpsychism is not just a hiccup in the history of philosophy. In ancient Greece and Rome panpsychism was the predominant view, Skrbina argues, and was defended by thinkers that we have otherwise taken very seriously. After a hiatus that is traceable to the dominance of Christianity (63), panpsychism becomes pervasive again in the early modern period. A number of lesser known figures embrace a version of the view, but also Bacon, Spinoza, Newton, and Leibniz. Hobbes appears to be committed to panpsychism, argues Skrbina, even if he does not follow his own argumentation to its panpsychist implications. Locke does not endorse panpsychism, but he allows that it is an intelligible view and a contender.

Skrbina then argues that a substantial thread of these panpsychist views stretches to the present day -- from the early moderns to the German idealists; from Peirce and James to Dewey and Whitehead; from Thomas Edison to 20th-Century scientists such as David Bohm. David Chalmers subscribes to positions of which panpsychism is an "inevitable" consequence (242), and Galen Strawson is a panpsychist by his own admission. If Skrbina is right, panpsychism has been embraced by some of the greatest thinkers in the history of philosophy and science. We know "Pierce's more famous work in logic, semiotics, and positivism" (155), but we need to consider the good thinking that informs his other work, and we need to reconsider other figures as well. " - NDPR.

1 comment:

Yale said...

Thank you for your very helpful review. If you do not mind, I would love to add it to the rather quixotic and controversial model of panpsychic cognition and re-cognition (in a literary as well as literal context of some sort) found at TrueTyme.org/TGNOS.pdf .

Max pax, YaleLandsberg@gmail.com