Several years ago, I wrote and published an article advancing a defense of panpsychism from the perspective of evolutionary biology. It was an explicitly exploratory article, opening with a lengthy discussion of the nascence of serious philosophy and science of the mind—and ending with a declaration that my feeling that panpsychism is a solid response to the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ is one of my least resolute and most tentative philosophical beliefs.
Due to this overt humility in the text of the article, I expected readers to see an opportunity to convince me that my arguments failed. Unfortunately, though I have now read many responses to my article in forums and elsewhere, I have been disappointed in the inability of such comments to point out any genuine flaws in my arguments. I say this is a disappointment not out of smug self-satisfaction regarding the arguments in question, but rather because I personally feel that the arguments do have genuine flaws. That my article has flaws was a baseless instinct when I wrote it, which has developed since then into a reasoned position. At any rate, I hoped that I was starting a conversation, but really I seem to have simply given people an opportunity to deliver their stump speeches about why they feel panpsychism is ridiculous without the need for examination (a trend I had hoped to curtail with the way I wrote that article’s introduction).
Although people have generally been more than willing to offer mature critical responses to many of my articles, such responses have not materialized for that article in particular. Thus, over the years, something odd has become clear to me: if I want to see a set of objections that really grapple with the arguments I advance in that particular article, I am going to have to write the set of objections myself. So . . . that exercise in navel-gazing is exactly what I’m going to do now; you might say that this is me writing criticism of a thinker that I truly consider to be my intellectual equal! Let’s get this over with . . .
Mind Turning Backward: