Panpsychism and Quantum Mechanics



9 Questions

What is panpsychism?

Which philosophers have been associated with panpsychism?

What has revived interest in panpsychism in the 21st century?

What does panpsychism hold?

What is the hard problem of consciousness?

What is integrated information theory (IIT)?

What is the measurement problem in quantum mechanics?

What is the criticism of panpsychism?

What is conscious realism?


Panpsychism: The View That Mind Is a Fundamental Feature of Reality

  • Panpsychism is a philosophical view that the mind or a mind-like aspect is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality.

  • It is one of the oldest philosophical theories and has been ascribed to philosophers including Thales, Plato, Spinoza, Leibniz, William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Bertrand Russell, and Galen Strawson.

  • Recent interest in the hard problem of consciousness and developments in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and quantum physics have revived interest in panpsychism in the 21st century.

  • Panpsychism holds that mind or a mind-like aspect is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality and that the type of mentality we know through our own experience is present, in some form, in a wide range of natural bodies.

  • Some historical and non-Western panpsychists ascribe attributes such as life or spirits to all entities (animism).

  • Contemporary academic proponents, however, hold that sentience or subjective experience is ubiquitous, while distinguishing these qualities from more complex human mental attributes.

  • The philosopher David Chalmers distinguishes between microphenomenal experiences (the experiences of microphysical entities) and macrophenomenal experiences (the experiences of larger entities, such as humans).

  • Panpsychism has a long history in Western thought, including pre-Socratic Greek philosophy, Stoicism, and the Renaissance, where it enjoyed a revival in the thought of figures such as Giordano Bruno and Tommaso Campanella.

  • In the 19th century, panpsychism was at its zenith, with philosophers such as Arthur Schopenhauer, C.S. Peirce, Josiah Royce, and William James all promoting panpsychist ideas.

  • In the 20th century, Bertrand Russell, Gerard Heymans, James Ward, and Charles Augustus Strong also endorsed variants of panpsychism.

  • Contemporary proponents of panpsychism include David Ray Griffin, David Skrbina, Gregg Rosenberg, Timothy Sprigge, Philip Goff, and William Seager.

  • Panpsychism encompasses many theories, united only by the notion that mind in some form is ubiquitous, and includes philosophical frameworks such as cosmopsychism, panexperientialism, panprotopsychism, and Russellian monism, as well as religious or mystical ontologies such as animism and Advaita Vedānta.Panpsychism: A Summary

  • Animism and hylozoism are similar to panpsychism but have fallen out of favour in contemporary academia.

  • Buddha-nature is a term used in some Buddhist traditions that may be interpreted as implying a form of panpsychism.

  • Conscious realism is a theory proposed by Donald Hoffman that argues that reality is made of a complex, dimensionless, and timeless network of "conscious agents."

  • Integrated information theory (IIT) approaches consciousness from a scientific perspective and believes that consciousness is nothing but integrated information, so Φ measures consciousness.

  • Panpsychism can be compatible with reductive materialism, dualism, functionalism, or other perspectives depending on the details of a given formulation.

  • Panpsychism is an alternative to both materialism and dualism and avoids the disunity of dualism and dualism's problems explaining how mind and matter interact.

  • Panpsychism is incompatible with emergentism, which holds that consciousness emerges higher up.

  • There is disagreement over whether idealism is a form of panpsychism or a separate view.

  • Neutral monism rejects the dichotomy of mind and matter, instead taking a third substance as fundamental that is neither mental nor physical.

  • The hard problem of consciousness refers to the question of why and how matter, when organised in a particular way, begins to have an experience. Panpsychism is considered a viable solution to the hard problem.

  • Panpsychism has all the benefits of materialism because it could mean that consciousness is physical while also escaping the grasp of epiphenomenalism.

  • Russellian monism suggests that thoughts, actions, intentions, and emotions may just be the quiddities of neurotransmitters, neurons, and glial cells.Panpsychism and Quantum Mechanics

  • Extrinsic physical properties can create structures, so can their corresponding and identical quiddites. The conscious mind is one such structure.

  • Proponents of panpsychism who use this line of reasoning include Chalmers, Annaka Harris, and Galen Strawson.

  • The extrinsic properties of physics must have corresponding intrinsic properties; otherwise the universe would be "a giant causal flux" with nothing for "causation to relate", which he deems a logical impossibility.

  • While population dynamics may be grounded in individual people, those people are grounded in "purely mathematical objects" such as energy and charge. The universe is, in a fundamental sense, made of nothing.

  • It seems that atoms, photons, etc. are in quantum superposition (which is to say, in many seemingly contradictory states or locations simultaneously) until measured in some way.

  • The measurement problem has largely been characterized as the clash of classical physics and quantum mechanics.

  • If a theory of everything is ever discovered, it will be a set of "psychophysical laws", rather than simply a set of physical laws.

  • The many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics does not take observation as central to the wave-function collapse, because it denies that the collapse happens.

  • Panpsychist interpretations of quantum mechanics have been put forward by such philosophers as Whitehead, Shan Gao, Michael Lockwood, and Hoffman, who is a cognitive scientist.

  • Tegmark has formally calculated the "decoherence rates" of neurons, finding that the brain is a "classical rather than a quantum system" and that quantum mechanics does not relate "to consciousness in any fundamental way."

  • One criticism of panpsychism is that it cannot be empirically tested.

  • Philosophers such as Chalmers have argued that theories of consciousness should be capable of providing insight into the brain and mind to avoid the problem of mental causation.


How much do you know about panpsychism and its relationship with quantum mechanics? Take this quiz to test your knowledge on one of the oldest philosophical theories that is gaining renewed interest in the 21st century. From the historical roots of panpsychism to contemporary academic and religious perspectives, to its compatibility with other philosophical frameworks, this quiz covers it all. Test your understanding of the hard problem of consciousness and panpsychism's proposed solutions, including its relationship with quantum mechanics and the measurement problem. Take

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