Avoiding Perennial Mind-Body Problems

Journal of Consciousness Studies 23 (9-10):111-133 (2016)

Abstract

Russell argued that we can’t know what brains are really like behind our perceptions of them, so minds can conceivably reside in brains. Physicalist-leaning Russellians from Feigl to Strawson try to avoid physicalist and dualist issues with this Russellian idea. Strawson also tries to avoid emergentist issues through panpsychism. Yet critics feel that these Russellians don’t really avoid these issues, but just recast them in new forms. For example, dualist issues arguably remain because it’s hard to see how private pains or colors can reside in solid, grainy, publicly observable brains. Emergence issues arguably remain because panpsychism seems equally unclear as emergentism about how minds arise from brains. This paper revises Strawson and Feigl, while building on recent progress in defusing panpsychism’s emergence issues. It tries to intelligibly formulate Russell’s idea so as to avoid the perennial issues in Russellian and non-Russellian theories, without raising new issues of its own.

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