Panpsychism and Hylozoism

In chapter 14 of Animism: Respecting the Living World I discussion some of links between the new animism and philosophical debates about “panpsychism” and “hylozoism”. These are also noted on p.17 and in the conclusion.

These links lead me to summarise the whole argument by saying that if there are, as some panpsychist philosophers argue, turtles all the way down, then there are also hedgehogs all the way round.

click here to go to Wikipedia's article about this phrase

There's a difference between turtles and hedgehogs in these phrases: the turtles are metaphorical but the hedgehogs are synecdochal. That is, the turtles represent something else: mind or consciousness. Theygo all the way down (one turtle below the next) because each element of the cosmos, each particle of matter, is consciousness or aware in some sense. The hedgehogs, however, represent themselves (true anarchists!) as well as the living community (all of us) of which they are members. They go all the way round because they the whole cosmos is a community of life. You can replace "turtles with anything else that symbolises mindful or conscious matter if you like - you can even reject the poetry and insist on saying matter is conscious or consciousness is material or somesuch. But you can't entirely get rid of the hedgehogs. You can say wombats go all the way round - as my Tasmanian friend, Doug Ezzy, probably will. Or you can say,eagles go all the way round. Chose any living being, any person, and let them represent the whole community. But the hedgehogs will be in their company. It was meant to be snappier that saying persons are all round us.

If you like, you can think of the Council of All Beings, or the Council With All Creatures (see pages 182 and 184 of the book).

And if you aren't sure why I think hedgehogs are good representatives for the wider community, follow the hedgehog over to the right of the screen...

Animism isn't entirely the same thing as either Panpsychism and Hylozoism, and I'm intrigued by what would happen if there was a dialogue between people interested in both. I've talked about this at a couple of conferences. In June 2004 I presented Animist consideration of consciousness at a conference organised by the Centre for the Study of Cultural Astrology and Astronomy at Bath Spa University College called Exploring Consciousness: With What Intent?. At the gathering of the American Academy of Religion in November 2004 at San Antonio, USA, I was part of a panel organised by the Animals and Religion Consultation with the Religion and Science group discussing the implications of Marc Bekoff's research and publications about the cognitive competence of animals. A version of that presentation will be published in the journal Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science (41.1 [2006]: 9-19). In both of these presentations I suggested that research scientists interested in animal cognition and the kind of consciousness that goes all the way down might benefit from a dialogue with animists and those interested in them. (Perhaps there's an equation for this: ethology+ethnography=? OR panpsychism+animism=? where ? is as yet unknown.) For example, animists have developed respectful approaches and appropriate etiquette for engaging with other-than-human persons of many kinds. It is possible that they may mediate between scientists and those among whom they research. This might be a radical challenge to Western culture, but I think it is inherent in the post- or anti-dualism of much recent academic engagement with the world. How else will scientists research a participative cosmos if they don't participate quite fully. Perhaps all this is to suggest a broader application of what I have called guesthood as an ethical research method - for which I gratefully acknowledge the generosity of friends in Ngati Ranana and Ngati Porou for introducing me to Maori protocols for making guests and respecting hosts.

While I am not sure that animists entirely need to learn academic methods to engage with the world, I am intrigued by what might happen if scholars took animist practices seriously and tried them out as methods.

Anyway, the real point of this page is to offer some suggestions about additional sources and discussions to those mentioned in the book. Please note (again) that I'm not going to repeat much of what I've already said in the book. For example, I'm not going to repeat the definitions of panpsychism or hylozoism that I provide on p.17.

Since much of my argument about panpsychism is based on the work of Christian de Quincey it seems sensible to link to his website first.

Then there are books by D.S. Clarke: Panpsychism and the Religious Attitude (SUNY, 2003) and Panpsychism: Past and Present Selected Readings (SUNY, 2004). The latter of these is, as its subtitle says, a set of readings that would aid anyone wanting more than my brief note about the history of this train of thought. The names Leibniz, Locke, Whitehead, Hartshorne, Griffin, Popper, Wittgenstein, Ryle and Nagel are on Clarke's Contents Page and in my Index.

I've also found the work of Max Velmans immensely helpful. I cite his book Understanding Consciousness (Routledge, 2000). This provides an admirable coverage and contribution to the debates. But his website gives a whole lot more.

For the cutting edge of academic research and discussion about consciousness see Journal of Consciousness Studies

And at the real forefront are my PhD students: Adrian Harris and Olu Taiwo.

And I'll improve on this as soon as I have time to do more than list...

Especially because there are lots more important things to do than simply list these people and merely introduce them!



Turtle in a pool in Ambos Mundos Hotel, Havana, Cuba ...











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