All About Panpsychism

Arthur Schopenhauer promoted panpsychist theory
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Philosophy is more of a qualitative type than quantitative type so you cannot expect direct answers to some of the most difficult questions in the world. But still, here is an article by Alveloz which will help you understand some of the key concepts of philosophy like panpsychism and consciousness.


The term panpsychism was coined by the Italian philosopher Francesco Patrizi in the sixteenth century. The word is made up of two Greek words pan meaning ‘all’ or ‘everything’ and psyche meaning ‘mind’ or ‘soul’. Panpsychism is the theory that consciousness is fundamental and and found everywhere. And that being conscious is actually having some sort of subjective experience. In simpler words, according to panpsychists, every particle is conscious. But it doesn’t mean that every inorganic combinations of particles are conscious. Of course things like rock, table or chair is not conscious but their basic constituents are indeed conscious. Panpsychism simply means everything has mind or mental element present in them.

The theory of panpsychism is considered to be one of the oldest theories but it saw a decline in mid twentieth century. It has recently been revived when people started showing interest in the hard problem of consciousness introduced by philosopher David Chalmers. Because of the increased academic emphasis on consciousness, interest in panpsychism has expanded. In recent years, there have been a number of credible academic books on the topic, as well as prominent articles that take panpsychism seriously.


“Awareness of internal and external reality” is what consciousness is described as, this awareness is subjective and unique to you. In simple words consciousness is experience, and the experience can be of pain, smell, pleasure or voice/audios, etc. One cannot obverse consciousness publicly which means one cannot measure a person’s feeling, thoughts or emotions. And that’s why it becomes difficult to deal with consciousness but that doesn’t mean we cannot observe it experimentally. Of course we cannot observe a person’s feelings or experience but we can ask them about it and observe their brain activity when they talk about it.

Panpsychism explains consciousness:

Why does consciousness exist at all? A question no one has the answer of yet. Most panpsychist talk about the consciousness or minds of electrons, protons or atoms and the reason they are doing that is because they are trying to explain how we came to be conscious. According to the materialism which is a doctrine that states that everything is made up of matter, including the universe or the brain, and that the matter is unconscious then how come we are conscious? And to get out of this hard problem of philosophy of mind, and to explain consciousness some materialists became panpsychists by saying there is consciousness present everywhere.

Panpsychism vs Idealism:

Philip Goff who is an associate professor in philosophy at Central European University in Budapest and author of Consciousness and Fundamental Reality. According to him, “Panpsychists believe that the physical world is fundamental, while idealists believe that there is a more fundamental truth behind the physical world”. Panpsychism is the theory that consciousness is fundamental and found in every particle whereas Idealism is a philosophical perspective that holds that thoughts are the only true reality and the only thing worth knowing. Some believe the concept of panpsychism, or universal consciousness, is prevalent in ancient Greek philosophy, paganism, and Buddhism.

Integrated Information Theory (IIT):

IIT was proposed by neuroscientist Giulio Tononi in 2004. The latest version of the theory, was published in 2004. Integrated knowledge theory tries to understand what consciousness is and why it’s linked to specific physical systems. The theory predicts whether or not a given system is conscious, to what extent it is conscious, and what kind of experience it is experiencing. The central argument of the theory is that a system is conscious if it has the property called phi ( Φ ), which is a measure of the system’s “integrated knowledge.” Phi may be a biological or non-biological entity’s property. Since a proton is an emergent phenomenon resulting from the interaction of its quarks, it may have phi. As a result, panpsychism exists.

Representative thinkers of panpsychism theory:

Panpsychist theories were advocated by philosophers like Arthur Schopenhauer, C.S. Peirce, Josiah Royce, William James, Eduard von Hartmann, F.C.S. Schiller, Ernst Haeckel, and William Kingdon Clifford, as well as psychologists like Gustav Fechner, Wilhelm Wundt, and Rudolf Hermann Lotze.

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