Interesting biography of the author of Dookie's reference work.
Philip Goff; Philosopher and consciousness researcher at Durham University, UK. His specialism includes how to integrate consciousness into our scientific worldview.
So.……………. One would expect a philosopher and consciousness researcher who makes his living from focusing how to integrate consciousness into the scientific world view, to write a book (earn his living) about....well, focusing on how to integrate consciousness into the scientific world view.
OK.. so that gives us something to start with.
I admit I haven't read it and have no intention of doing so. But that's me. My following comments are based on reviews of his book written by people who review books for a living, and lay people who have bought the book and read it.
Before I go any further, I agree that Mr Goff is perfectly entitled to justify his beliefs and put them out there for all to read and draw their own conclusions. The Guardian book review already has. Among it's comments are:
Philip Goff’s engaging Galileo’s Error is a full‑on defence of panpsychism. It’s plainly a difficult view, but when we get serious about consciousness, and put aside the standard bag of philosophical tricks, it seems that one has to choose, with Wallace, between some version of panpsychism or fairytales about immaterial souls.
Another comment from the review:
Goff’s historical remarks about panpsychism are misleading, however, in giving pride of place to Arthur Eddington and Bertrand Russell with no mention of Alfred North Whitehead’s panpsychism, or of WK Clifford, or the American panpsychists CA Strong and Durant Drake, whose writings from 1918-1925 were certainly known to Russell and Eddington. He also perpetuates the myth that David Chalmers “swept away decades of evasion” of the question of consciousness in 1995 and “forced us to confront the real mystery head-on”. This is wholly untrue in philosophy (as has been said before), and it’s a weird kick in the face to all those who thought so very hard and well about the problem for several centuries before 1995. There was a great surge of outstanding work in precisely the decades Goff dismisses,
And there's more:
Goff is also wrong to identify materialism, the ancient and overwhelmingly plausible view that everything in the universe including consciousness is wholly material, with the obviously false and hyperscientistic view that everything in the universe, including feelings of pain, sexual joy, experiences of colour, and so on, can be “exhaustively described” (ie described in such a way that its nature is fully conveyed) in the language of the physical sciences. I don’t know any materialists who think this, and it’s certainly not true of Thomas Hobbes in 1651, or the electrifying materialist panpsychist Margaret Cavendish in 1666, or Joseph Priestley in 1777, and thousands of others since.
So much for the Grauniad review.
An ordinary member of the public reviewing the book on Amazon (it's there if you want to go look)
Copy and paste:
2.0 out of 5 stars
Lots of talk, little content, gave me philosophobia
Reviewed in the United States on 28 January 2020
I thought the idea of panpsychism was fascinating. I wanted to read about it. Turns out Goff began actually talking about the subject on page 113. The discussion lasted only a few pages. The book before and after that point did speak of some things tangentially related but I found it mostly to be a lot of fluff and not much actual content.
Goff introduced me to the word philosophobia. I had heard hints of this among physicists and thought it was a silly notion. After all we all just want to learn right? But Goff's book proved to me that there is sound reason for this unexpected antagonism and actually infected me with a strong case of it myself. From now on I will have a good look inside before paying for a book with a philosophical angle to check for actual content.
For the 95% of the book that was not directly talking about panpsychism I felt (using the style of the book) as if I was in a closed room with a dozen people, all Dualists, Materialists and such arguing about whether or not it might be raining outside. One man, Galileo, tries to open the door to see for himself and Goff jumps up and points saying "There he is, he's the one who got us all into this mess". The book was a rambling discussion about schools of philosophy devoid of even hints of supporting evidence for the main ideas.
Great idea that might be the beginning of a solution, little said about it, lots of peripheral babble.
He uses, as a pillar of his argument, the false allegation that scientists believe "everything can be explained scientifically", as if everything is already being explained. But it isn't and nobody in the scientific community makes that claim. We explain what we know, and then go out in search of what we don't. That is NOT the same as claiming a hyperscientific view of all-encompassing knowledge.
From reading these two reviews (among others) it seems that Mr Goff appeals very much to other philosphers and philosophy students who seem to find him engaging and erudite. I'm sure he is in his chosen field. But in the reviews I scanned, it seems his argument is very narrow focused, doesn't really enlighten anybody to anything and most of what he does say has been written a hundred times before.
Sure, he goes out of his way to justify panpsychism….. a lot of the book is devoted to that...… but hardly anything addressed the core issue..... and without much in the way of supporting evidence or genuinely provocative argument.
The feeling I'm getting is that he's trying to justify his profession as a serious subject rather than offer a new insight into an old debate.
Footnote: Some other reviewers have seen Mr Goff's work in a more positive light, particularly those reviews written by other philosophers. That's cool. They too have their opinion.
Those reviews that I selected were chosen because a) they were written by people not too close to having a vested interest in the subject, and b) made comments regarding the relevance of the book as an academic work
those who concentrated on its justification of panpsychism.
I do like the sound of his band "Number and Number" though..... Guitar explorations of the human condition...…. It might be worth logging onto "Ultimate Guitar" to see if they've put any tabs on there. I'm partial to a bit of experimentation with my guitar too (not too many barre chords, I hope. I struggle a bit with some of those)
Quite a good hatchet job!
Anyway, my own attitude towards most books is "take what you need and leave the rest"......which is a line from Robbie Robertson's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."
At the moment I'm quite interested in "consciousness" and how such relates to ultimate Reality. Having just finished a fine little book by Annaka Harris, "Conscious" which introduced many of the current theories in an undogmatic way, I moved onto "Galileo's Error". It has added panpsychism to my vocabulary, to join a few other "pans". Nowhere near finishing it, but being interested in the Scientific Revolution I find the start entertaining.
As you say, there are many many reviews, by all sorts. Many good. How much they may have been paid to write them I have no idea. Or maybe they simply thought the book was good? Who knows?