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Contents:
  1. Lexikon der Argumente
  2. Panpsychism Contemporary Perspectives | Consciousness | Philosophy Of Mind
  3. Zusammenfassung
  4. Panpsychism Contemporary Perspectives

Intuitively, once God created the entities of physics, consciousness came along for free.


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We will be especially concerned with microphysical properties and with phenomenal properties. Microphysical properties are the fundamental physical properties characterized by a completed physics. Microphysical entities are the fundamental physical entities characterized by that physics. Despite the name, it is not definitionally required that these entities be small. Microphysical truths are positive truths about the instantiation of microphysical properties by microphysical entities.

Here a positive truth is intuitively a truth about the properties that an entity has, rather than those that it lacks for more on this, see Chalmers Phenomenal or experiential properties are properties characterizing what it is to be a conscious subject. The most familiar phenomenal property is simply the property of phenomenal consciousness: An entity has this property when there is something it is like to be that entity. There are also many specific phenomenal properties, characterizing more specific conscious experiences.

For example, phenomenal redness characterizes the distinct sort of conscious experience we have when we experience redness. An entity has the property of phenomenal redness when it has that sort of conscious experience. Phenomenal truths are positive truths about the distribution of phenomenal properties i. Dualism about consciousness is the thesis that phenomenal truths are not all grounded in microphysical truths. We can put the conceivability argument against materialism and for dualism as follows.

Here we can say that a claim is conceivable when it is not ruled out a priori. So it is conceivable that there are mile-high unicycles, for example. A claim is metaphysically possible when it could have obtained: intuitively, when God could have created the world such that the claim would have been true. So it is plausibly metaphysically possible that there are mile-high unicycles.

Premise 1 here is supported by the conceivability of zombies: creatures microphysically identical to us without consciousness. Most people think that zombies do not actually exist, but there seems to be no a priori contradiction in the idea. Premise 2 is supported by general reasoning about the relationship between conceivability and possibility. The thesis needs to be refined to accommodate various counterexamples due to Kripke and others, but I will stay with the simple thesis here.

Here the intuitive idea is that if God could have created a world microphysically identical to our world but without consciousness, then the presence of consciousness involves new fundamental properties over and above those of physics, so materialism is false. The conceivability argument is an epistemic argument against materialism, starting with an epistemological premise and proceeding to a metaphysical conclusion.

There are other closely related epistemic arguments. These include the knowledge argument, which starts from the premise that Q is not deducible from P and concludes that it is not grounded in P; the explanatory argument, which starts from the premise that there is an explanatory gap between P and Q and concludes that there is an ontological gap; and the structure-dynamics argument, which starts from the premise that P can be analyzed in terms of p.

Much of what I say will apply to all these arguments, but I will focus on the conceivability argument here. Materialists do not just curl up and die when confronted with the conceivability argument and its cousins. Type-A materialists reject the epistemic premise, holding for example that zombies are not conceivable.

Type-B materialists reject the step from an epistemic premise to an ontological conclusion, holding for example that conceivability does not entail possibility. Still, there are significant costs to both of these views. Type-A materialism seems to require something akin to an analytic functionalist view of consciousness, which most philosophers find too deflationary to be plausible. Type-B materialism seems to require a sort of brute necessity that is not found elsewhere and that is hard to justify.

Of course some philosophers find these costs worth paying, or deny that these are costs. Still, I think that the argument makes at least a prima facie case against materialism.

That said, many materialists think that the conceivability argument against materialism and for dualism is countered by the causal argument against dualism and for materialism. This argument runs as follows: 1 Phenomenal properties are causally relevant to physical events. Here we can say that a property is causally relevant to an event when instantiations of that property are invoked in a correct causal explanation of that event.

For example, the high temperatures in Victoria were causally relevant to the Victorian bushfires. A full causal explanation of an event is one that characterizes sufficient causes of the event: causes that guarantee that the event will occur, at least given background laws of nature. Premise 1 is supported by intuitive observation. My being in pain seems to cause my arm to move.

If things are as they seem here, then the pain will also be causally relevant to the motion of various particles in my body. Premise 2 follows from a widely held view about the character of physics: Physics is causally closed, in that there are no gaps in physical explanations of physical events.

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Premise 3 is a rejection of a certain sort of overdetermination. Given p. Systematic overdetermination of this sort is widely rejected. Premise 4 is true by definition. Dualists do not just curl up and die when presented with the causal argument. Epiphenomenalists reject premise 1 , holding that the claim that consciousness causes behavior is just an intuition and can be rejected. Interactionists reject premise 2 , holding that physics leaves room for and perhaps is positively encouraging to causal gaps that consciousness might fill.

Still, there are costs to both of these views. Epiphenomenalism is at least inelegant and requires special coincidences between conscious experiences and macrophysical events utterances about consciousness, for example that seem to reflect them. Interactionism requires a view of physics that would be widely rejected by most physicists, and that involves a large bet on the future of physics. Again, some dualists including me in some moods deny that these are costs or hold that the costs are worth paying.

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Lexikon der Argumente

Still, I think there is at least a prima facie case against dualism here. So we have a standoff. On the face of it, the conceivability argument refutes materialism and establishes dualism, and the causal argument refutes dualism and establishes materialism. It is time for a Hegelian synthesis. For our purposes, it is useful to distinguish various more fine-grained varieties of panpsychism. To do this, we can first introduce some terminology. Let us say that macroexperience is the sort of conscious experience had by human beings and other macroscopic entities i.

Macroexperience involves the instantiation of macrophenomenal properties: properties characterizing what it is like to be humans and other macroscopic entities. Let us say that microexperience is the sort of conscious experience had by microphysical entities. If panpsychism is correct, there is microexperience and there are microphenomenal properties. We are not in a position to say much about what p.

Panpsychism Contemporary Perspectives | Consciousness | Philosophy Of Mind

I think we can be confident that it is very different from human experience, however. It is almost certainly much simpler than human experience. To get far beyond generalities like this concerning microexperience, we would need a proper panpsychist theory of consciousness, which we are currently lacking. Constitutive panpsychism is the thesis that macroexperience is wholly or partially grounded in microexperience.

More or less equivalently, it is the thesis that macroexperience is constituted by microexperience, or realized by microexperience. On this view, macrophenomenal truths obtain in virtue of microphenomenal truths, in roughly the same sense in which materialists hold that macrophenomenal truths obtain in virtue of microphysical truths. To put things intuitively, constitutive panpsychism holds that microexperiences somehow add up to yield macroexperience.

Zusammenfassung

The view can allow that macroexperience is not wholly grounded in microexperience: For example, it might be grounded in microexperience along with certain further structural or functional properties. Panpsychists need not be constitutive panpsychists. There is also nonconstitutive panpsychism, which holds that there is microexperience and macroexperience, but the microexperience does not ground the macroexperience.

One sort of emergent panpsychist might hold that there are contingent laws of nature that specify when certain microexperiences give rise to certain macroexperiences. Still, as we will see, nonconstitutive panpsychism inherits many of the problems of dualism, while it is constitutive panpsychism that offers hope for a Hegelian synthesis. So it is this view that I will focus on.

Like materialism, constitutive panpsychism comes in type-A and type-B varieties.

Type-A constitutive panpsychism holds that there is an a priori entailment from microphenomenal truths to macrophenomenal truths, while type-B constitutive panpsychism holds that there is an a posteriori necessary entailment from microphenomenal truths to macrophenomenal truths. The type-B view inherits many of the problems of type-B materialism, so it is the type-A view that offers special hope for a Hegelian synthesis.

When I talk of constitutive panpsychism, it will usually be the type-A version that I have especially in mind.


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  • According to this view, classical physics tells us a lot about what mass does—it resists acceleration, attracts other masses, and so on—but it tells us nothing about what mass intrinsically is. We might say that physics tells us what the mass role is, but it does not tell us what property plays this role. Here we can say that quiddities are the fundamental categorical properties that play the fundamental roles specified in physics.

    Panpsychism Contemporary Perspectives

    Alternatively, we can say that quiddities are the categorical bases of the microphysical dispositions characterized in physics. We can stipulate in addition that quiddities are distinct from the roles or the dispositions themselves. A view on which there are only role or dispositional properties, and no distinct properties playing those roles or serving as the basis for the dispositions, is a view on which there are no quiddities.

    It is not obvious that there must be quiddities. There are respectable structuralist or dispositionalist views of physics on which physics involves just structure or dispositions all the way down. And whether or not one accepts these objections, it is certainly not obvious that there are no quiddities. On the face of it, a worldview that postulates quiddities is perfectly coherent, and there is little clear evidence against it.