The Argument for Panpsychism from Experience of Causation

In William Seager (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Panpsychism. Routledge (2019)
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In recent literature, panpsychism has been defended by appeal to two main arguments: first, an argument from philosophy of mind, according to which panpsychism is the only view which successfully integrates consciousness into the physical world (Strawson 2006; Chalmers 2013); second, an argument from categorical properties, according to which panpsychism offers the only positive account of the categorical or intrinsic nature of physical reality (Seager 2006; Adams 2007; Alter and Nagasawa 2012). Historically, however, panpsychism has also been defended by appeal to a third argument based on considerations about the nature and observability of causation. This argument has not been much discussed in recent times. Here is a concise version from William James: "… the concrete perceptual flux, taken just as it comes, offers in our own activity-situations perfectly comprehensible instances of causal agency … If we took these experiences as the type of what actual causation is, we should have to ascribe to cases of causation outside of our life, to physical cases also, an inwardly experiential nature. In other words, we should have to espouse a so-called “pan-psychic” philosophy" (James 1911: 218). James here suggests that we have direct experience of causation in our own agency. He thereby directly contradicts David Hume, who famously denied that we have any experience of causation. James goes on to claim that if this experience is representative of causation in general, it follows that all causation is mental, and that panpsychism is true. This kind of argument for panpsychism can be called the argument from (experience of) causation. This chapter offers, first, a history of this argument and arguments closely related to it, and second, an analysis of the argument – is it valid, are its premises in any way defensible, and how does it relate to the other, more popular arguments for panpsychism from philosophy of mind and categorical properties?



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Hedda Hassel Mørch
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences

Citations of this work

Panpsychism.William E. Seager, Philip Goff & Sean Allen-Hermanson - 2022 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
A Humean Non-Humeanism.David Builes - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (3):1031-1048.
Modal Idealism.David Builes - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Mind.
The Ineffability of Induction.David Builes - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 104 (1):129-149.

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