In this paper, I argue that, if a common form of materialism is true, I cannot know my own thoughts, or even that I am thinking. I conclude that, since I can and do know these things, materialism about mind as I characterize it must be false.
In the philosophy of mind, neuroscience, and psychology, the causal relationship between phenomenal consciousness, mentation, and brain states has always been a matter of debate. On the one hand, material monism posits consciousness and mind as pure brain epiphenomena. One of its most stringent lines of reasoning relies on a ‘loss-of-function lesion premise,’ according to which, since brain lesions and neurochemical modifications lead to cognitive impairment and/or altered states of consciousness, there is no reason to doubt the mind-brain identity. On (...) the other hand, dualism or idealism (in one form or another) regard consciousness and mind as something other than the sole product of cerebral activity pointing at the ineffable, undefinable, and seemingly unphysical nature of our subjective qualitative experiences and its related mental dimension. Here, several neuroscientific findings are reviewed that question the idea that posits phenomenal experience as an emergent property of brain activity, and argue that the premise of material monism is based on a logical correlation-causation fallacy. While these (mostly ignored) findings, if considered separately from each other, could, in principle, be recast into a physicalist paradigm, once viewed from an integral perspective, they substantiate equally well an ontology that posits mind and consciousness as a primal phenomenon. (shrink)
The essential proposal of this text is that psychedelic-induced metaphysical experiences should be integrated and evaluated with recourse to metaphysics. It will be argued that there is a potential extra benefit to patients in psychedelic-assisted therapy if they are provided with an optional, additional, and intelligible schema and discussion of metaphysical options at the integrative phase of the therapy. This schema (the “Metaphysics Matrix”) and a new Metaphysics Matrix Questionnaire (“MMQ”) stemming therefrom will be presented, the latter of which can (...) also be used as an alternative or additional tool for quantitative measurement of psychedelic experience in trials. Metaphysics is not mysticism, despite some overlap; and certainly not all psychedelic experience is metaphysical or mystical—all three terms will be defined and contrasted. Thereafter psychedelic therapy will be presented and analysed in order to reveal the missing place for metaphysics. Metaphysics, with epistemology (theory of knowledge) and axiology (ethics and aesthetics), is a defining branch of Philosophy. Metaphysics, in contrast to mysticism, is considered to be based on argument rather than pure revelation. Thus, in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy one sees here the potential bridge between reason-based philosophy and practical therapy. (shrink)
I define two metaphysical positions that anti-physicalists can take in response to Jonathan Schaffer’s ground functionalism. Ground functionalism is a version of physicalism where explanatory gaps are everywhere. If ground functionalism is true, arguments against physicalism based on the explanatory gap between the physical and experiential facts fail. In response, first, I argue that some anti-physicalists are already safe from Schaffer’s challenge. These anti-physicalists reject an underlying assumption of ground functionalism: the assumption that macrophysical entities are something over and above (...) the fundamental entities. I call their position “lightweight anti-physicalism.” Second, I go on to argue that even if anti-physicalists accept Schaffer’s underlying assumption, they can still argue that the consciousness explanatory gap is especially mysterious and thus requires a special explanation. I call the resulting position “heavyweight anti-physicalism.” In both cases, the consciousness explanatory gap is a good way to argue against physicalism. (shrink)
Is there such a thing as mental causation? Is it possible for the mental to have causal influence on the physical? Or has the old “mind over matter” question been rendered obsolete by the advent of brain science? Whatever our answers to these questions, it seems that we cannot systematically pursue them without considering what makes mental causation problematic in the first place: The causal closure of the physical world. This paper revisits the problem of mental causation by drawing on (...) a classical debate between Dharmakirti and the Indian materialists. The main argument of the paper is that expanding our conception of causality to accommodate phenomenal content can cast new light on the problem of mental causation. A satisfactory solution to the problem of mental causation must reject the completeness of the physical principle in favor of conceptions of causality that allow for phenomenal properties to play a causal-explanatory function. (shrink)
We review existing strategies for bringing modal intuitions to bear against materialist theories of consciousness, and then propose a new strategy. Unlike existing strategies, which assume that imagination (suitably constrained) is a good guide to modal truth, the strategy proposed here makes no assumptions about the probative value of imagination. However, unlike traditional modal arguments, the argument developed here delivers only the conclusion that we should not believe that materialism is true, not that we should believe that it is false.
In his Consciousness and Fundamental Reality (2017) Philip Goff defends his anti-physicalist argument against what he calls the "Dual Carving" objection—the idea that two representations of the very same fact could both be conceptually independent and "transparent," that is, revealing of the essences of the entities in question. His defense invokes a thesis he calls "Minimal Rationalism." I explore exactly how Minimal Rationalism is supposed to turn aside the objection and argue that the formulation of Minimal Rationalism on offer is (...) ambiguous between stronger and weaker readings. Goff needs the stronger reading to use it in defense of his argument, but only the weaker reading is warranted by the considerations he brings to bear in favor of his rationalism. His minimal rationalism is, in sum, insufficiently minimal. The upshot is not only that Goff is deprived of a way of turning back an important objection to his case against physicalism; we also gain a better sense of what kind of rationalist thesis is properly invoked in metaphysics. (shrink)
The objective of this paper is to defend the non-reductive thesis of phenomenal consciousness. This paper will give an overview of the arguments for the non-reductive explanation of phenomenal consciousness and justify why the reductionist approach is implausible in the context of explaining phenomenal subjective experience. The debate between reductionist and non-reductionist on the project of demystifying and mystifying phenomenal consciousness is driven by two fundamental assumptions-1) Reductive-Naturalistic Objectivism, 2) Phenomenal Realism. There are several arguments for the irreducibility of phenomenal (...) consciousness; this paper will focus on the inverted spectrum argument, knowledge argument, and the conceivability argument. (shrink)
This paper brings out an inconsistency between David Chalmers's dualism, which is the main element of his philosophy of mind, and his structuralism, which is the main element of his epistemology. The point is ad hominem , but the inconsistency if it can be established is of considerable independent interest. For the best response to the inconsistency, I argue, is to adopt what Chalmers calls ‘type‐C Materialism’, a version of materialism that has been much discussed in recent times because of (...) its promise to move us beyond the stand‐off between standard versions of materialism and dualism. In turn, if that version of materialism is true, both dualism and structuralism should be rejected. (shrink)
Among worldviews, in addition to the options of materialist atheism, pantheism and personal theism, there exists a fourth, “local emergentism”. It holds that there are no gods, nor does the universe overall have divine aspects or any purpose. But locally, in our region of space and time, the properties of matter have given rise to entities which are completely different from matter in kind and to a degree god-like: consciousnesses with rational powers and intrinsic worth. The emergentist option is compared (...) with the standard alternatives and the arguments for and against it are laid out. It is argued that, among options in the philosophy of religion, it involves the minimal reworking of the manifest image of common sense. Hence it deserves a place at the table in arguments as to the overall nature of the universe. (shrink)
In this paper, I propose and defend an antiphysicalist argument, namely, the imagination argument, which draws inspiration from Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument, or rather its misinterpretation by Daniel Dennett and Paul Churchland. They interpret the knowledge argument to be about the ability to imagine a novel experience, which Jackson explicitly denies. The imagination argument is the following. Let Q be a visual phenomenal quality that is imaginable based on one’s phenomenal experience. (1) It is not possible to imagine Q solely (...) based on complete physical knowledge. (2) If it is not possible to imagine Q solely based on complete physical knowledge, then physicalism is false. (3) Therefore, physicalism is false. Even though objections have been raised to this argument in the literature, there is, as far as I know, no explicit defense of it. I argue that the imagination argument is more plausible than the knowledge argument in some respects and less plausible in others. All things considered, it is at least as interesting and serious a challenge to physicalism as the knowledge argument is. (shrink)
According to Chalmers (2018), the meta-problem of consciousness is 'the problem of explaining why we think that there is a problem of consciousness'. In this paper I argue that the key to understanding both consciousness itself and addressing the meta-problem is to understand what acquaintance is and what its objects are. Unfortunately, I think there are still some serious mysteries lurking here, which I present briefly in this commentary. In particular, on the view of acquaintance I favour, it is unclear (...) how our acquaintance with the contents of experience can serve as data for our theory of conscious experience. I end with some speculations concerning how to address this mystery. (shrink)
We view the mind-body problem in terms of the two interconnected problems of phenomenal consciousness and mental causation, namely, how subjective conscious experience can arise from physical neurological processes and how conscious mental states can causally act upon the physical world. In order to address these problems, I develop here a non-physicalist framework that combines two apparently antithetical views: the materialist view of the mind as a product of the brain and the metaphysical view of consciousness rooted in an underlying (...) hidden reality. I discuss how this framework resolves the problem of mental causation while being simultaneously consistent with fundamental physical principles. I will elucidate how the framework ties in to the perspective of 'meaning' that acts as the bridge between physical neurological processes and the conscious mind. Moreover, we will see how both our awareness of the self and our representation of the external world are connected to this perspective. (shrink)
According to a posteriori physicalism, phenomenal properties are physical properties, despite the unbridgeable cognitive gap that holds between phenomenal concepts and physical concepts. Current debates about a posteriori physicalism turn on what I call “the perspicuity principle”: it is impossible for a suitably astute cognizer to possess concepts of a certain sort—viz., narrow concepts—without being able to tell whether the referents of those concepts are the same or different. The perspicuity principle tends to strike a posteriori physicalists as implausibly rationalistic; (...) further, a posteriori physicalists maintain that even if the principle is applicable to many narrow concepts, phenomenal concepts have unique features that render them inferentially isolated from other narrow concepts ). I argue, on the contrary, that the case for the perspicuity principle is quite strong. Moreover, not only have versions of the PCS repeatedly failed, likely, all versions will, given the strange combination of lucidity and opacity that the PCS has to juggle. I conclude that a posteriori physicalists currently lack a principled objection to classic anti-physicalist arguments. (shrink)
I present three problems regarding the Problem of the Base. They concern the nature of information, the kind of Platonism that physicalists allegedly confront, and the constraints imposed by causal principles. These problems focus on the notion of information and its relation to the Problem of the Base. I also highlight the importance of Schneider's paper, particularly its relevance for future debates.
Susan Schneider argues that physicalism must be false if abstracta are part of the physicalist's dependence base. In opposition to her view, here I set out some reasons to think that abstracta in general, including abstracta that are woven into the dependence base, are something physicalists can countenance with consistency.
I argue that there can be no such thing as a borderline case of the predicate ‘phenomenally conscious’: for any given creature at any given time, it cannot be vague whether that creature is phenomenally conscious at that time. I first defend the Positive Characterization Thesis, which says that for any borderline case of any predicate there is a positive characterization of that case that can show any sufficiently competent speaker what makes it a borderline case. I then appeal to (...) the familiar claim that zombies are conceivable, and I argue that this claim entails that there can be no positive characterizations of borderline cases of ‘phenomenally conscious’. By the Positive Characterization Thesis, it follows that ‘phenomenally conscious’ can not have any borderline cases. (shrink)
Some strange cases have gripped philosophers of mind. They have been deployed against materialism about human persons, functionalism about mentality, the possibility of artificial intelligence, and more. In this paper, I cry “foul”. It’s not hard to think that there’s something wrong with the cases. But what? My proposal: their proponents ignore questions about composition. And ignoring composition is a mistake. Indeed, materialists about human persons, functionalists about mentality, and believers in the possibility of artificial intelligence can plausibly deploy moderate (...) theories of composition in defense of their views. And as it turns out, these strange cases are an interesting source of evidence for moderate theories of composition. (shrink)
Porpora offers an a priori argument for the conclusion that there are infinitely many thoughts that it is physically possible for us to think. That there should be such an a priori argument is astonishing enough. That the argument should be simple enough to teach to a first-year undergraduate class in about 20 min, as Porpora’s is, is more astonishing still. Porpora’s main target is Max Tegmark’s recent argument for the claim that if current physics is right, then there are (...) mental duplicates of us in far flung regions of the Universe. His argument is directed against Tegmark’s assumption that mental facts supervene upon physical facts. So, if Porpora’s argument is sound then not only is Tegmark’s argument unsound, but physicalism is also false. So, Porpora’s argument is powerful indeed. Who would have thought that a simple a priori argument, together with the physical facts, could solve the issue of whether physicalism is true?. Not I. In this paper I take a closer look at Porpora’s argument and show that it is fallacious. I also consider the other reasons Porpora gives for thinking there are infinitely many thinkable thoughts and find them similarly lacking. (shrink)
I suggest two valid and sound arguments refuting physicalism, whether it is reductive or supervenience physicalism. The first argument is a self-referential one that is not involved with any self-referential inconsistency. The second argument demonstrates that physicalism is inescapably involved with self-referential inconsistency. Both arguments show that arguments and propositions (to be distinguished from sentences) are not physical existents. They are rather mental existents that are not reducible to any physical existent and do not supervene on anything physical. From these (...) two arguments, it clearly follows that any physicalist argument or proposition, as a mental existent, is self-refuting. (AN PHL2326365) Subjects: EXISTENTS; INCONSISTENCY; METAPHYSICS; MIND; PHYSICALISM; SELF-REFERENCE. (shrink)
Both a priori physicalism and a posteriori physicalism combine a metaphysical and an epistemological thesis. They agree about the metaphysical thesis: our world is wholly physical. Most agree that this requires everything that there is must be necessitated by the sort of truths described by physics. If we call the conjunction of the basic truths of physics P, all physicalists agree that P entails for any truth Q. Where they disagree is whether or not this entailment can be known a (...) priori. The a priori physicalist says it can, the a posteriori physicalist says it cannot. Though a posteriori physicalism is probably the dominant view, it is really a surprising and somewhat unlikely stance. In this article, the nature of the view is discussed, and two arguments are presented that should cause us to look again at the potential of a priori physicalism. (shrink)
If you’re a materialist, you probably think that rabbits are conscious. And you ought to think that. After all, rabbits are a lot like us, biologically and neurophysiologically. If you’re a materialist, you probably also think that conscious experience would be present in a wide range of naturally-evolved alien beings behaviorally very similar to us even if they are physiologically very different. And you ought to think that. After all, to deny it seems insupportable Earthly chauvinism. But a materialist who (...) accepts consciousness in weirdly formed aliens ought also to accept consciousness in spatially distributed group entities. If she then also accepts rabbit consciousness, she ought to accept the possibility of consciousness even in rather dumb group entities. Finally, the United States would seem to be a rather dumb group entity of the relevant sort. If we set aside our morphological prejudices against spatially distributed group entities, we can see that the United States has all the types of properties that materialists tend to regard as characteristic of conscious beings. (shrink)
I shall understand physical determinism as the doctrine that every physical event has a physical event as its necessary and sufficient cause. This paper seeks to show that no one would be justified in holding this doctrine unless it could be shown to make successful predictions; and that such predictions could only be obtained if we assume the doctrine to be false.
If we reject physicalism, for the reasons given in my 2011 book ‘Panpsychism,’ we can arrive at a variant of idealism that accepts the concrete existence of all entities discoverable by science, but argues that these are nothing over and above centres of experience that can perceive one another and act on their percepts. In this metaphysical system, all physical properties and laws reduce without remainder to mental dittos – length is used in this paper as an example. Adopting this (...) position resolves many difficulties in the philosophy of mind, including the problems of: the explanatory gap, mental causation, perception, qualia and zombies. (shrink)
Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical, including the mind. One argument against physicalism appeals to neardeath experiences, conscious experiences during episodes, such as cardiac arrest, when one's normal brain functions are severely impaired. The core contention is that NDEs cannot be physically explained, and so we have reason to appeal to the non-physical in explaining them. In this paper, we consider in detail a recent article by Pim van Lommel in which he appeals to NDEs in arguing against (...) physicalism and in favour of an alternative conception of the mind as non-localized and immaterial. Our main contentions are, first, that it is not clear that physicalism cannot accommodate the phenomena of NDEs and, second, that it is not obvious how the conception of the mind as non-localized and immaterial is supposed to help. (shrink)
n April, 2014 I organized an International Workshop on East-West Approaches to the Nature of Mind, Consciousness and Self, in the beautiful grounds of Dartington Hall, in Devon, England to explore the edges of current understanding of ordinary and extra-ordinary conscious experience. Although Consciousness Studies is now a flourishing area of investigation, ordinary and extra-ordinary human experiences do not fit comfortably into the prevailing materialist-reductionist paradigm, suggesting the need to explore non-reductionist approaches in an open, but nevertheless rigorous way. Consciousness (...) has, of course, also been studied in the East over the millennia, but there are major cultural differences in the ways mind, consciousness and self are conceptualized and investigated in the East and in the West, making it difficult to integrate Eastern with Western ways of thought. This provided the purpose for the workshop—to gather together an invited selection of some of the best current thinkers and researchers in this cross-disciplinary area to present their work, along with a group of discussants that included equally senior, mid-career and more junior researchers from different traditions (both Eastern and Western), to explore the issues in depth, with the aim of moving closer to a more integrated, inclusive worldview. The progression of the workshop over four days broadly followed four themes: 1) how to obtain knowledge additional to that provided by the usual third-person methods of science through subjective ways of knowing and by focusing close attention on the details of ordinary experience 2) the range and significance of extraordinary experiences 3) the potentially transformative effects on the knower of engaging in such explorations, and 4) some integrative ways of thinking about what is revealed by such investigations. (shrink)
Revelation is the thesis that having an experience that instantiates some phenomenal property puts us in a position to know the nature or essence of that property. It is widely held that although Revelation is prima facie plausible, it is inconsistent with physicalism, and, in particular, with the claim that phenomenal properties are physical properties. I outline the standard argument for the incompatibility of Revelation and physicalism and compare it with the Knowledge Argument. By doing so, I hope to show (...) that on various plausible interpretations of Revelation it is in fact consistent with physicalism. Moreover, there is a robust reading of Revelation that a posteriori physicalists can, and should, accept. (shrink)
This Introduction to a Journal of Consciousness Studies Special Issue on Monist Alternatives to Physicalism summarises some of the basic problems of Physicalism and common fallacies in arguments for its defence that are found in the philosophical and scientific literature. It then introduces six monist alternatives: 1) a form of emergent panpsychism developed by William Seager; 2) a novel introduction to the process philosophy of A.N. Whitehead by Anderson Weekes; 3) a review of current developments in Russellian Monism by Torin (...) Alter and Yujin Nagasawa; 4) an analysis of dual-aspect monism and its relation to quantum mechanics originally proposed developed by Pauli and Jung and given a modern interpretation by Harald Atmanspacher; 5) a form of processing monism that might help to resolve ontological differences in Indian philosophy and psychology between dualist Samkya Yoga and nondualist Advaita Vedanta by K. Ramakrisna Rao; and 6) an account of Reflexive Monism, which, viewed as a global system, can incorporate many of the seemingly opposed “isms” that currently populate Consciousness Studies by Max Velmans. Whatever the fundamental nature of Nature might be, it must have the power to give rise to its observable manifestations. Consequently, all the papers in this issue are concerned to give a “natural” account of the relationships among consciousness, mind, and the material world that is entirely consistent with the findings of science, and they all accept that for a unified understanding, mind, consciousness and the material world must have a common base. The aim of the Special Issue is to contribute to a deeper understanding of that base, and to stimulate novel thinking about its nature. (shrink)
I argue that, unlike your brain, you are not composed of other things: you are simple. My argument centers on what I take to be an uncontroversial datum: for any pair of conscious beings, it is impossible for the pair itself to be conscious. Consider, for instance, the pair comprising you and me. You might pinch your arm and feel a pain. I might simultaneously pinch my arm and feel a qualitatively identical pain. But the pair we form would not (...) feel a thing.1 Pairs of people themselves are incapable of experience. Call this The Datum. What explains The Datum? I think the following exhaust the reasonable options. (1) Pairs of people lack a sufficient number of immediate parts. (2) Pairs of people lack immediate parts capable of standing in the right sorts of relations to each other and their environment. (3) Pairs of people lack immediate parts of the right nature. (4) Pairs of people are not structures (they are unstructured collections of their two immediate parts). (5) Some combination of (1) – (4). Finally, (6) pairs of people are not simple. (shrink)
In this introduction, before summarizing the contents of the volume, the authors characterize materialism as it is understood within the philosophy of mind, and they identify three respects in which materialism is on the wane.
Using empirical research on pain, sound and taste, I argue against the combination of intentionalism about consciousness and a broadly ‘tracking’ psychosemantics of the kind defended by Fodor, Dretske, Hill, Neander, Stalnaker, Tye and others. Then I develop problems with Kriegel and Prinz's attempt to combine a Dretskean psychosemantics with the view that sensible properties are Shoemakerian response-dependent properties. Finally, I develop in detail my own 'primitivist' view of sensory intentionality.
This chapter argues that materialism is vulnerable to two kinds of epistemological objections: transcendental arguments, that show that materialism is incompatible with the very possibility of knowledge; and defeater arguments, that show that belief in materialism provides an effective defeaters to claims to knowledge. It constructs objections of these two kinds in three areas of epistemology: our knowledge of the laws of nature (and of scientific essences), our knowledge of the ontology of material objects, mathematical and logical knowledge. The chapter (...) argues that these epistemological weaknesses place the materialist in a dialectically weak position in respect of ontological identity claims, since the materialist cannot know the causal powers or persistence conditions of material objects. It also argues that the materialist can provide no non-circular account of epistemic normativity. Anti-realist accounts of normativity are unavailable because normativity is already implicated in all intentionality. Moreover, materialists face a fatal dilemma in attempting to carry out an etiological reduction of teleological norms, since neither Humean nor anti-Humean accounts of causation yield defensible results. (shrink)
I argue on the basis of recent findings in neuroscience that consciousness is not a brain process, and then explore some alternative, non-reductive options concerning the metaphysical relationship between consciousness and the brain, such as weak and strong accounts of the emergence of consciousness and the constitution view of consciousness. I propose an Aristotelian account of the strong emergence of consciousness. This account motivates a wider ontology than reductive physicalism and makes reference to formal causation as a way explaining the (...) causal power of consciousness. What is meant by formal causation, in thiscontext, is that consciousness has the causal power to organize or control neuronal activity. This notion of causation is elaborated and supported by recent findings in the neurosciences. An advantage of this empirically informed approach is that proponents of the irreducibility of consciousness no longer need to rely upon conceptually based arguments alone, but can build a case against reductive physicalism that has a significant empirical foundation. (shrink)
We present an argument against physicalism in two steps: 1) Physics reduces the world to a mathematical structure; 2) The notion of 'structure' only makes sense when carried by something and interpreted by something else. Physicalism does not allow such a carrier and interpreter at a fundamental level, hence it must be wrong. An extended notion of Mind is presented as the fundamental 'hardware' which is necessary by the argument. In particular, qualia correspond to the 'monitor component' of mind. Some (...) ideas are presented on how to extend this mind-matter relation to a more elaborate picture: (1) A system of two complementary reductionisms (one physical, the other mental) may hint toward a deeper reality in which mind and the physical world are closely entangled. (2) A division of mind into a conscious 'monitor' and an unconscious 'processor' is suggested using the analogy of dreams. Finally, the problem of Solipsism and the existence of 'minds other than my own' is discussed. (shrink)
Physicalists commonly argue that conscious experiences are nothing more than states of the brain, and that conscious qualia are observer-independent, physical properties of the external world. Although this assumes the ‘mantle of science,’ it routinely ignores the findings of science, for example in sensory physiology, perception, psychophysics, neuropsychology and comparative psychology. Consequently, although physicalism aims to ‘naturalise’ consciousness, it gives an unnatural account of it. It is possible, however, to develop a natural, nonreductive, reflexive model of how consciousness relates to (...) the brain and the physical world. This paper introduces such a model and how it construes the nature of conscious experience. Within this model the physical world as perceived (the phenomenal world) is viewed as part of conscious experience not apart from it. While in everyday life we treat this phenomenal world as if it is the “physical world”, it is really just one biologically useful representation of what the world is like that may differ in many respects from the world described by physics. How the world as perceived relates to the world as described by physics can be investigated by normal science (e.g. through the study of sensory physiology, psychophysics and so on). This model of consciousness appears to be consistent with both third-person evidence of how the brain works and with first-person evidence of what it is like to have a given experience. It also views consciousness as an integral part and natural expression of the world—in a manner true to the spirit (if not to the detail) of Whitehead’s philosophy. -/- . (shrink)