is Pullman correct in saying Wordsworth, Blake, and other poets of the
Romantic era were in support of panpsychism?
Keshav, correct according to whom? Wordworth and Blake? Other poets? Pullman? You?? Should we instead agree with Nabokov that good readers do not read "for the academic purpose of indulging in generalizations"?
Of course, a lot depends upon what is meant by "in support of". Short of written record stating "I, a poet of the Romantic era, hereby am in support of panpsychism" what would qualify as demonstrable proof? Reader assent? No. How then do we know when the interpretative excesses go beyond what the subject matter admits?
Historians, for example, disagree about the past more than on the fact of the matter; they all take the same body of facts and then manipulate and characterize those facts to best serve their purpose. In the end, they’re doing no more and no different than what a literary critic does when he insists what the correct meaning of a play or poem should be. This is not to say that an appreciation of the past cannot be gotten from reading history and literature; it is to say that mere appreciation of the past is not what historians claim to be providing.
Pullman's claim may be "true to Pullman" and he may present convincing evidence soliciting agreement with his claim, however, that is all that is to be made of this claim: agreement or disagreement. There is no rationally assessing the truth value except to note the perspectival or situational content. Who would settle the matter of correct interpretation? How do we adjudicate rival accounts? Does a patient settle on their own disease from a number of alternative diagnoses??
As this is a philosophy forum, it is worth pointing out that
agreement matters not one iota to truth value.
there is a vast difference between hermeneutics and epistemology (the
former "what is to [you;me;us;them]" and the latter heuristic), and
that, short of the exception noted above, any evidence presented in support
of Pullman's claim that, for example, Blake supported panpsychism, would be
a matter of interpretation.
Such is the nature of interpretation (what is to [you;me;us;them]) vs reality (what is).
For example, from http://www.iep.utm.edu/panpsych/
Goethe developed a poetic form of panpsychism that displayed itself
chiefly in his writings that personified nature. His most explicit
statement came from a short essay of 1828: “Since, however, matter can
never exist and act without spirit [Seele], nor spirit without matter,
matter is also capable of undergoing intensification, and spirit
cannot be denied its attraction and repulsion” (1988: 6). Here we find
a beautifully concise articulation of panpsychism: no matter without
mind, no mind without matter. This is not to say that mind is
identical with matter, nor that one can be reduced to the other. It
simply claims (like Spinoza and Schopenhauer) that neither mind nor
matter exist without the other.
The above can, of course, be used solicit agreement with interpreting a panpsychism of the type where "consciousness arises because every inanimate particle actually has some measure of consciousness" [your interpretation], as well as supporting the type which "assume[s] that consciousness, like mass, is a normal and universal property of matter (this is known as panpsychism), so that human beings, dogs, carrots, stones, and atoms are all conscious, though in different degrees" [Pullman's interpretation], as well as a dualist or monist interpretations, even existentialist, objectivist, et cetera.
Of note, what are we to make of Pullman's assumption that consciousness is "universal"? What is even meant by universal? Does he mean the totality of all things? If he meant the world as known from the sub-atomic threshold of losing quantum coherence to the event horizon of cosmological black holes, does not "the world" suffice? Considering the etymology and morphology of the term "universe" are we to imagine Pullman actually means "uni"-"verse", i.e. "one turn" (e.g. his)? "One text" (e.g. his)? Not unlike the urging of the sly little weaver in "The Emperor's New Clothes" the question remains: Is the finely-knit raiment of "consciousness is a universal property of matter and everything is conscious in degrees" really there? And to this has Pullman given one iota of logic, reason, argument or evidence? Anything beyond pale utterance and assumption?
Ultimately, do we not need to rationally assess panpsychism to address Pullman's claim? And what is panpsychism except incoherent nonsense? We can read Chalmer's and exclaim, "now there's a TRUTH!" and set about fitting the world to his view of it, but what of this: "I distinguish the phenomenal and psychological (functional) concepts of mind. I argue that every mental state is a phenomenal state, a psychological state, or a hybrid of the two. I discuss the two mind-body problems corresponding to the two concepts of mind, and discuss the various senses of the term "consciousness"" is ponderable or even palpable?
In the words of Searle in their exchange published by the NY Review of Books:
"What about panpsychism, his view that consciousness is in rocks, thermostats, and electrons (his examples), indeed everywhere? I am not sure what he expects as an argument against this view. The only thing one can say is that we know too much about how the world works to take this view seriously as a scientific hypothesis. Does he want me to tell him what we know? Perhaps he does."
In short, "The problem with panpsychism is not that it is false; it does not get up to the level of being false. It is strictly speaking meaningless because no clear notion has been given to the claim. Consciousness comes in units and panpsychism cannot specify the units." John Searle, NYRB, 10 January, 2013, pg. 55, reviewing Christof Koch, Consciousness: Confessions of A Romantic Reductionist.
So, is Pullman's characterization of poets of the Romantic era as panpsychists true? No, it is not a matter of true or false, he is simply drawing an analogy. Is he interpreting their work to fit his view of panpsychism (whatever that may be)? Yes.
Hope that helps.