The 2020 PhilPapers Survey of Anglophone academic philosophers’ views has just been published. On the philosophy of mind, physicalism (AKA materialism) remains the view of the majority, but only just, with 51.9% of philosophers professing to accept/lean towards physicalism about the mind. However, a very large minority of 32.1% align with non-physicalism about the mind (15.9% are undecided, accept an alternative to both, or think the question is too unclear to answer*). There was also a more specific question on ‘Consciousness’ which allows us to dig a bit deeper. Among those who accept/lean towards non-physicalism, approximately 3/4 are dualists and 1/4 are panpsychists.
How do I feel about these results? I didn’t doubt that materialism would come out the most popular position, although I hoped it would be under 50% this time. I was also hoping that, among non-physicalist positions, panpsychism and dualism would be a bit closer to 50/50. However, panpsychism did not even feature in the 2009 survey: it’s gone from being a view that hardly anyone took seriously option to being one of the standard options to consider.
There’s a prima facie inconsistency in the data. The ‘Other Minds’ questions asks which things are conscious, and only 2% accepted/leaned towards particles being conscious, a much lower percentage than accept/lean towards panpsychism in the ‘Consciousness’ question. I suspect this is because when addressing the ‘Other Minds’ question, people were generally considering what is suggested by the empirical data concerning the neural correlates of consciousness, whereas when addressing the ‘Consciousness’ question, people are giving their opinion on the best solution to the hard problem. The case for panpsychism is built on the latter not the former.
Of course, ultimately this isn’t a popularity contest. I think there are good reasons to take panpsychism to be the most plausible option, and those reasons would still be there even if nobody accepted them. But it’s nice to see that the Anglophone philosophical community is very slowly inching its way towards the truth 😉
Incidentally, the only view of consciousness less popular than panpsychism was eliminitivism, the view of Daniel Dennett and others that consciousness doesn’t really exist.
*A smaller % of the ‘other’ accept a combination of the two, think there is no fact of the matter, or reject all of the above.