Participation, Organization, and Mind: Toward a Participatory Worldview

David Skrbina


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Thesis Summary

The present modern worldview, the Mechanistic Worldview, has become inadequate to handle pressing concerns of society. It has outlived its usefulness, and hence a new worldview is called for. I develop the Participatory Worldview as a promising alternative, and explore various themes of participatory philosophy throughout the history of Western Civilization.

As I conceive it, the concept of 'participation' is fundamentally a mental phenomenon, and therefore a key aspect of the Participatory Worldview is the idea of 'participatory mind'. In the Mechanistic Worldview mind is a mysterious entity, attributed only to humans and perhaps higher mammals. In the Participatory Worldview mind is a naturalistic, holistic, and universal phenomenon. Human mind is then seen as a particular manifestation of this universal nature. Philosophical systems in which mind is present in all things are considered versions of panpsychism, and hence I argue for a system that I call 'participatory panpsychism'. My particular articulation of participatory panpsychism is based on ideas from chaos theory and nonlinear dynamics, and is called 'hylonoism'.

In support of my theory I draw from an extensive historical analysis, both philosophical and scientific. I explore the notion of participation in its historical context, from its beginnings in Platonic philosophy through modern-day usages. I also show that panpsychism has deep intellectual roots, and I demonstrate that many notable philosophers and scientists either endorsed or were sympathetic to it. Significantly, these panpsychist views often coexist and correspond quite closely to various aspects of participatory philosophy.

Human society is viewed as an important instance of a dynamic physical system exhibiting properties of mind. These properties, based on the idea of participatory exchange of matter and energy, are argued to be universal properties of physical systems. They provide an articulation of the universal presence of participatory mind. Therefore I conclude that participation is the central ontological fact, and may be seen as the core of a new conception of nature and reality.



Chapter 1 - The Nature of the Participatory Worldview - pdf (192kb)

  1. The Participatory Worldview and the Spiral of Western Civilization
  2. Setting the Framework
  3. The Meaning of Participation
  4. Wheeler, Skolimowski, and the Modern Origins of the Participatory Worldview
  5. Some Early Elements of Participatory Philosophy

Chapter 2 - Concepts of Mass and Energy in Western Civilization - pdf (147kb)

  1. Matter and Motion
  2. Philosophia Materia - Historical Perspectives
  3. Philosophia Energeia - Historical Perspectives

Chapter 3 - Chaos and the Complexity of the World - pdf (223kb)

  1. Background on Chaos
  2. History of Chaos Theory
  3. The Concept of Phase Space
  4. Phase Space in More Complex Systems

Chapter 4 - Mind and Brain in Phase Space - pdf (273kb)

  1. System of the Human Brain
  2. Action of the Neurons
  3. Mind and Brain in Phase Space
  4. Recent History of Mind in Phase Space
  5. Characteristics of the Point of Consciousness
  6. Hylonoism, Information, and Mind-Brain
  7. Cell-based, Biological Mind
  8. Layers of Mind
  9. Explanation vs. Description


Chapter 5 - Panpsychist Perspectives from the Ancient World - pdf (307kb)

  1. Panpsychism and Participation
  2. Panpsychism Defined
  3. 'Hylozoism' and the Ancient Greeks
  4. Panpsychism in Plato and Aristotle
  5. The Stoics
  6. Participatory Philosophy in the Early Christian Era
  7. Renaissance Naturalism of the 16th Century
  8. Campanella and the Transition to the 17th Century

Chapter 6 - The Modern Era of Panpsychism and Participation - pdf (280kb)

  1. Emergence of the Mechanistic Worldview in the 17th Century - Spinoza & Leibniz
  2. Continental Thinking of the 18th Century
  3. 19th Century Developments in Germany and England
  4. The Evolution of Ideas into the 20th Century
  5. Developments of the Past Three Decades
  6. Recapitulation of Part II


Chapter 7 - Scientific Perspectives on Participation and Mind - pdf (188kb)

  1. The Scope of Part III
  2. Panpsychism in 20th Century Science
  3. Bateson and Bohm
  4. Ubiquitous Matter and Zero-Point Energy

Chapter 8 - Social Phenomenon, Aggregate Mind, and the Nature of Exchange - pdf (298kb)

  1. Historical Ideas of Group Mind
  2. Social Mind as a System of Exchange
  3. Bataille and the Concept of Superabundance
  4. On the Relationship between Capitalism and Technology
  5. Qualities of the Social Mind
  6. Conclusions and Summary of the Thesis

Appendix A - Timeline Of Important Greek Philosophers (pre-200 BCE) - pdf (61kb)

Appendix B - Bibliography - pdf (65kb)


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