One of the deepest mysteries of contemporary science is how the brain produces consciousness. One of the deepest challenges of theology is trying to make sense of how a supernatural God could interact with the world, and why such a being would allow suffering. Recently there has emerged new interest in certain radical solutions to each of these problems. Panpsychists address the first problem by postulating consciousness at the fundamental level of physical reality. Pantheists address the second problem by identifying God with the universe, whilst panentheists do this by holding that the universe is within God.
This project is the first to bring these two radical movements (panpsychism and pantheism/panentheism) into dialogue, enabling the resources of each to address the challenges of the other. The project will (a) explore versions of panpsychism on which the universe is itself a conscious mind (b) ask whether on these 'cosmopsychist' views the universe can be regarded as divine. Our ultimate goal is to test whether a cosmopsychist conception of God might exemplify both the advantages of theism (explaining the fine-tuning of physics, and why there is something rather than nothing) and the advantages of atheism (avoiding the problem of evil, and the extravagance of postulating a supernatural realm). This may lead to a worldview more consonant with human flourishing either than traditional theism or traditional atheism.
To address this we will organize workshops and essay competitions, and publish the papers in open access special issues of journals, which we envisage will become core texts for the field. There will be a significant public engagement component: a trade book, episodes of high profile podcasts, and a prize for a popular article. The project will widen the scope of philosophy of religion, developing innovative conceptions of the divine which reflect our contemporary understanding of the universe and the conscious mind.