Experience and the physical

Journal of Consciousness Studies 13 (10-11):117-28 (2006)
Strawson’s challenging and provocative defence of panpsychism1 begins by sensibly insisting that physicalism, properly understood, must unflinchingly countenance the occurrence of conscious experiences. No view, he urges, will count as ‘real physicalism’ (p. 4) if it seeks to get around or soften that commitment, as versions of socalled physicalism sometimes do. Real physicalism (hereinafter physicalism tout court) must accordingly reject any stark opposition of mental and physical, which is not only invoked by many followers of Descartes, but even countenanced by many recent physicalists. Conscious experiences, Strawson persuasively urges, are a special case of the physical, just as cows are animals. Panpsychism enters the picture because, despite the physical nature of conscious experiences, Strawson maintains that we cannot describe or explain the experiential using the terms of physics or neurophysiology. Since the experiential is nonetheless physical, Strawson concludes that the physical ultimates must, in addition to whatever properties physics and neurophysiology reveal, have experiential properties as well. Strawson argues that we cannot avoid this conclusion by maintaining that combinations of physical ultimates constitute or give rise to experiential properties. Physical ultimates cannot give rise to conscious experience unless those ultimates are themselves in some way ‘intrinsically experiential’ (p. 22). The experiential cannot emerge from nonexperiential ultimates in the way that macroscopic liquidity is standardly held to emerge from molecular properties. Strawson concludes that at least some physical ultimates must be ‘intrinsically experience-involving’ (p. 22); and, since it’s reasonable to see the physical ultimates as homogeneous in nature, we should assume that they all have experiential properties
Keywords Emergence  Experience  Metaphysics  Panpsychism  Physicalism  Strawson, Galen
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