Philosophy of Panpsychism

Architect Louis Kahn famously advocated seeking the spiritual essence of a tectonic element by asking a brick “what do you want to be?” (The brick answered it wanted to be an arch). Related to the spirit or consciousness of the inorganic, Philosopher Phillp Goff explores the philosophy of panpsychism, through which he seeks to counter materialist and quantifiable metaphysics of physical science, by examining the possibility that consciousness is universal and it exists from an atomic level to that of the universe. The academic papers that are available on his website lays out the arguments against dualist separation of mind and body, as he explains subjective qualities of consciousness from human to animal, then to the inorganic. 

Goff argues that micro level parts have their own consciousness and the body is a collective coming together of these micro consciousness into a macro level whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This elegant philosophy is applicable to the part to whole question of architectonics and also to the idea that architecture can be an open ended consciousness that interfaces with the consciousness of the subject/user. That is to say, architecture has a soul and it can affect yours.

Panpsychism does a good job of showing that the ontology of architectural creations have a spirit/consciousness that is manifested in form. As a basis for an architectural theory, this is not to say that these forms have to mimic an organism in a biomorphic form (after all, the brick wanted to be an arch). If the concept that inorganic forms can be constituted of macro level consciousness sounds too new-age, the argument can be restricted to state that architecture is an extension of human spirit and it affects the human soul through interface. 

This interface of consciousness existing between the object (architecture) and the subject (user/observer) can be applied to unbuilt projects existing only in images or texts, since an argument can be made that the unbuilt project is an extension or an offspring of the consciousness of the author. Therefore, in terms of architecture, panpsychism is applicable to the transference of concepts and not limited to the materials that constitute a built building. This way of thinking has correlation to deconstruction and structuralist way of viewing the universe in terms of texts. The groundbreaking new way of seeing available through panpsychism is that these texts are consciousness inherent in the inorganic rather than existing separate from physical reality.