Mind matters: towards the incorporation of panpsychism from analytic philosophy of mind within the doctrine of creation
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date23/05/2020
Leidenhag, Joanna Margaret Buchanan
This thesis argues that a theological articulation of panpsychism, within the bounds of a broadly conceived Christian orthodoxy, would be of benefit to the doctrine of creation. Panpsychism is a family of theories within philosophy of mind, which seek to explain the existence of consciousness in the human person by positing mentality (“psyche”) as fundamental and ubiquitous to the natural world (“pan”). In recent decades, emergence theory has become a popular via media between eliminative physicalism and substance dualism. However, in lieu of the inability (or refusal) of emergence theorists to provide an account of how matter gives rise to the mind, a significant group of contemporary analytic philosophers are returning to the historical concept of panpsychism as a more satisfactory alternative. Should this revival of panpsychism continue, what will the implications be for Christian theologians engaged in constructive and interdisciplinary articulations of the doctrine of creation? This is the driving question that this thesis sets out to answer. In addition to various scientific and philosophical ambiguities, theologies built upon the theory of emergence contain unrecognised tensions. As such, theologians should investigate alternative ontologies, which may serve Christianity better. The recent revival of panpsychism within contemporary philosophy of mind needs to be evaluated both for its coherence and conduciveness to theistic beliefs. To counteract any appearance that this project is merely chasing the winds of fashion, a brief historical interlude considering the panpsychism of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz is given to exhibit the historical pedigree of employing panpsychism for theological ends. Philosophical rigour and historical pedigree, although important, are not enough to justify favouring one ontology above all others within the doctrine of creation. An ontology must also ‘earn its keep’, so to speak, through interaction and integration with other theological commitments. Panpsychism is so tested in the context of contemporary debates surrounding divine action and eco-theological ethics. These chapters reveal the possibility that panpsychism may not only be resourced from without but may also arise from within the Christian community’s Scriptural and liturgical reflection. Panpsychism facilitates a robust and realistic account of God’s active presence within creation and the response of all created beings in praise. If nothing more, the revival of panpsychism within analytic philosophy of mind should be welcomed and may be partnered with by theologians in the coming years.