The first half of this book argues that physicalism cannot account for consciousness, and hence cannot be true. The second half explores and defends Russellian monism, a radical alternative to both physicalism and dualism. The view that emerges combines panpsychism with the view that the universe as a whole is fundamental.
Dualists say plausible things about our mental concepts: there is a way of thinking of pain, in terms of how it feels, which is independent of causal role. Physicalists make attractive ontological claims: the world is wholly physical. The attraction of a posteriori physicalism is that it has seemed to do both: to agree with the dualist about our mental concepts, whilst retaining a physicalist ontology. In this paper I argue that, in fact, a posteriori physicalism departs from the dualist's (...) intuitive picture of our phenomenal concepts in just as radical a manner as more traditional forms of physicalism. Whereas the physicalism of David Lewis and David Armstrong is counterintuitive in holding that our only way of thinking about pain is in terms of its causal role, the physicalism of David Papineau and Brian Loar departs from common sense in holding that our phenomenal concept of pain is opaque: thinking of pain in terms of how it feels reveals nothing of what it is for something to feel pain. The arguments of David Chalmers and Frank Jackson against a posteriori physicalism involve general claims about all concepts. In contrast, my argument makes a claim only about phenomenal concepts: phenomenal concepts are not opaque. (shrink)
This paper starts from the assumption that panpsychism is counterintuitive and metaphysically demanding. A number of philosophers, whilst not denying these negative aspects of the view, think that panpsychism has in its favour that it offers a good explanation of consciousness. In opposition to this, the paper argues that panpsychism cannot help us to explain consciousness, at least not the kind of consciousness we have pre-theoretical reason to believe in.
Zombies are bodies without minds: creatures that are physically identical to actual human beings, but which have no conscious experience. Much of the consciousness literature focuses on considering how threatening philosophical reflection on such creatures is to physicalism. There is not much attention given to the converse possibility, the possibility of minds without bodies, that is, creatures who are conscious but whose nature is exhausted by their being conscious. We can call such a ‘purely conscious’ creature a ghost.
Cognitive phenomenalism is the view that occurrent thoughts are identical with, or constituted of, cognitive phenomenology. This paper raises a challenge for this view: the cognitive fine-tuning problem. In broad brushstrokes the difficulty is that, for the cognitive phenomenalist, there is a distinction between three kinds of fact: cognitive phenomenal facts, sensory phenomenal facts, and functional facts. This distinction gives rise to the challenge of explaining why, in actuality, these three phenomena tend to be matched together in ways that respect (...) norms of rationality. Various solutions to this problem are explored – divine intervention, value-involving laws of nature, or basic capacities to respond to reasons – all of which are wildly at odds with naturalism. If cognitive phenomenalists want their view to be consistent with naturalism, as many do, they must come up with a naturalistic solution to the cognitive fine-tuning problem. (shrink)
This paper starts from the assumption that panpsychism is counterintuitive and metaphysically demanding. A number of philosophers, whilst not denying these negative aspects of the view, think that panpsychism has in its favour that it offers a good explanation of consciousness. In opposition to this, the paper argues that panpsychism cannot help us to explain consciousness, at least not the kind of consciousness we have pre‐theoretical reason to believe in.
In my recent book Consciousness and Fundamental Reality, I proposed a principle linking rational coherence and metaphysical possibility, as part of an argument against physicalism. Although it was not the focus of concern in this book, I had hoped that that principle might undergird a generalised account of our knowledge of modality. I have subsequently realised, however, that that principle has limited application, in a way that conflicts with these broader ambitions. In this paper I will outline these limitations and (...) propose ways of overcoming them. The result I hope, is the bare bones of an account of how our knowledge of metaphysical modality is grounded in our capacity to discern whether or not a proposition is rationally coherent. (shrink)
Few these days dispute that the knowledge argument demonstrates an epistemic gap between the physical facts and the facts about experience. It is much more contentious whether that epistemic gap can be used to demonstrate a metaphysical gap of a kind that is inconsistent with physicalism. In this paper I will explore two attempts to block the inference from an epistemic gap to a metaphysical gap – the first from the phenomenal concept strategy, the second from Russellian monism – and (...) suggest how the proponent of the knowledge argument might respond to each of these challenges. In doing so, I will draw on recent discussions of grounding and essence in the metaphysics literature. (shrink)
Realism about cognitive or semantic phenomenology, the view that certain conscious states are intrinsically such as to ground thought or understanding, is increasingly being taken seriously in analytic philosophy. The principle aim of this paper is to argue that it is extremely difficult to be a physicalist about cognitive phenomenology. The general trend in later 20th century/early 21st century philosophy of mind has been to account for the content of thought in terms of facts outside the head of the thinker (...) at the time of thought, e.g. in terms of causal relations between thinker and world, or in terms of the natural purposes for which mental representations have developed. However, on the assumption that consciousness is constitutively realised by what is going on inside the head of a thinker at the time of experience, the content of cognitive phenomenology cannot be accounted for in this way. Furthermore, any internalist account of content is particularly susceptible to Kripkensteinian rule following worries. It seems that if someone knew all the physical facts about what is going on in my head at the time I was having a given experience with cognitive phenomenology, they would not thereby know whether that state had ‘straight’ rather than ‘quus-like’ content, e.g. whether the experience was intrinsically such as the ground the thought that two plus two equals four or intrinsically such as to ground the thought that two quus two equals four. The project of naturalising consciousness is much harder for realists about cognitive phenomenology. (shrink)
In her paper 'Does the Mathematical Nature of Physics Undermine Physicalism?' Susan Schneider draws attention to a much neglected challenge to physicalism, arising from its mathematical vocabulary. Whilst I agree with Schneider that the mathematical nature of physics is a concern for the physicalist, I disagree with her concerning the essence of the problem. I argue on the basis of Newman's problem that a purely mathematical description cannot entirely characterize concrete reality. The physicalist can avoid Newman's problem by emphasizing the (...) causal or nomic elements of physics, which ensure that it is not purely mathematical. However, physicalism on such a construal is a form of causal structuralism, which I argue involves either a vicious regress or a vicious circularity. (shrink)
Many philosophers and scientists believe that we need an explanation as to why the laws of physics and the initial conditions of the universe are fine-tuned for life. The standard two options are: theism and the multiverse hypothesis. Both of these theories are extravagant and arguably have false predictions. Drawing on contemporary philosophy of mind, I outline a form of panpsychism that I believe offers a more parsimonious and less problematic explanation of cosmological fine-tuning.
(2013). Phenomenal Consciousness: Understanding the Relation Between Experience and Neural Processes in the Brain, by Dimitris Platchias. Australasian Journal of Philosophy: Vol. 91, No. 3, pp. 617-620. doi: 10.1080/00048402.2013.788529.
_‘Informative, accessible, and fun to read— this is an excellent reference guide for undergraduates and anyone wanting an introduction to the fundamental issues of metaphysics. I know of no other resource like it.’– __Meghan Griffith, Davidson College, USA_ _'Marvellous! This book provides the very best place to start for students wanting to take the first step into understanding metaphysics.Undergraduates would do well to buy it and consult it regularly. The quality and clarity of the material are consistently high.' – __Chris (...) Daly, University of Manchester, UK_ Ever wondered about Gunk, Brains in a Vat or Frankfurt’s Nefarious Neurosurgeon? With complete explanations of these terms and more, _Metaphysics: The Key Concepts_ is an accessible and engaging introduction to the most widely studied and challenging concepts in metaphysics. The authors clearly and lucidly define and discuss key terms and concepts, under the themes of: time particulars & universals realism & antirealism free will personal identity causation and laws. Arranged in an easy to use A-Z format, each concept is explored and illustrated with engaging and memorable examples, and accompanied by an up-to-date guide to further reading. Fully cross-referenced throughout, this remarkable reference guide is essential reading for students of philosophy and all those interested in the nature of reality. (shrink)
A zombie is a physical duplicates of a human being which lacks consciousness. A ghost is a phenomenal duplicate of a human being whose nature is exhausted by consciousness. Discussion of zombie arguments, that is anti-physicalist arguments which appeal to the conceivability of zombies, is familiar in the philosophy of mind literature, whilst ghostly arguments, that is, anti-physicalist arguments which appeal to the conceivability of ghosts, are somewhat neglected. In this paper I argue that ghostly arguments have a number of (...) dialectical advantages over zombie arguments. I go onto explain how the conceivability of ghosts is inconsistent with two kinds of a priori physicalism: analytic functionalism and the Australian physicalism of Armstrong and Lewis. (shrink)
In the recent metaphysics literature, a number of philosophers have independently endeavoured to marry sparse ontology to abundant truth. The aim is to keep ontological commitments minimal, whilst allowing true sentences to quantify over a vastly greater range of entities than those which they are ontologically committed to. For example, an ontological commitment only to concrete, microscopic simples might be conjoined with a commitment to truths such as ‘There are twenty people working in this building’ and ‘There are prime numbers (...) greater than 5.’ I argue that a significant challenge to this project comes from the philosophy of mind. As Theodore Sider has pointed out, anti-physicalism is consistent with a sparse ontology. However, I will try to show that the premises of the standard anti-physicalist arguments can be used to form an argument to the conclusion that sentences which quantify over subjects of experience ontologically commit us to subjects of experience. Truths about consciousness cannot be bought more cheaply than their superficial grammar suggests. (shrink)
How do we account for resemblance between concrete particular objects? What is it about reality which makes a sentence such as the following true? (1) x and y are both spherical Realists about properties claim that, at a fundamental level, this sentence is true because x and y both exemplify the property of sphericity. Michael Loux favours this account of resemblance. Nevertheless, Loux concedes that austere nominalism, which I understand to be the view that nothing exists over and above particular (...) concrete objects, can offer a plausible account of resemblance. (shrink)
Revelation is roughly the thesis that we have introspective access to the essential nature of our conscious states. This thesis is appealed to in arguments against physicalism. Little attention has been given to the problem that Revelation is a source of pressure in the direction of epiphenomenalism, as introspection does not seem to reveal our conscious states as being essentially causal. I critique Hedda Hassel Mørch’s ‘phenomenal powers view’ response to this difficulty, before defending a form of the ‘consciousness+’ response.