The Combination Problem: Subjects and Unity

Erkenntnis 82 (1):103-120 (2017)
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Panpsychism has often been motivated on the grounds that any attempt to account for experience and consciousness in organisms in purely physical, nonexperiential terms faces severe difficulties. The “combination problem” charges that attributing phenomenal properties to the basic constituents of organisms, as panpsychism proposes, likewise fails to provide a satisfactory basis for experience in humans and other organisms. This paper evaluates a recent attempt to understand, and solve, the combination problem. This approach, due to Sam Coleman, is premised on a distinction between mere aggregates and genuine unities, and the purported inability of subjects to constitute a unity. In response, I first argue that it may not be incumbent upon the panpsychist to explain how microphenomenal properties could constitute a unity in the way that Coleman supposes. I then argue that even if such a burden does fall on the panpsychist, it is far from clear that a plurality subjects cannot constitute such a unity. Finally, I argue that if one adopts a functionalist account of macrosubjects, as Coleman does, there is little reason to think that a plurality of subjects could not constitute a macrosubject. In these ways, I argue that the force of the combination problem does not turn on whether microphenomenal properties require minds or subjects that have them.



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Kevin Morris
Tulane University

References found in this work

From an Ontological Point of View.John Heil - 2003 - Oxford University Press.
The View from Nowhere.Thomas Nagel - 1986 - Behaviorism 15 (1):73-82.
Panpsychism and Panprotopsychism.David Chalmers - 2013 - Amherst Lecture in Philosophy 8.

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