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Abstract: Should neutral monism be reconsidered? Classic NM (Mach James Russell) is examined first, and its fundamental theses identified. The second half of the paper looks at recent contemporary variants.
Abstract: A 2009 conference paper about Russell's enhanced physicalism: physical structural relations of matter instantiated by qualities with "intrinsic character." Russell's hypothesis leads many to panpsychism or protophenomenalism via a line-of-descent argument, but there is a way to break the line of descent, making sensation qualities separate higher order structural dispositions, if they are instantiated by the right kind of ground-level dispositional qualities.
Abstract: Any position that promises genuine progress on the mind-body problem deserves attention. Recently, Daniel Stoljar has identified a physicalist version of Russells notion of neutral monism; he elegantly argues that with this type of physicalism it is possible to disambiguate on the notion of physicalism in such a way that the problem is resolved. The further issue then arises of whether we have reason to believe that this type of physicalism is in fact true. Ultimately, one needs to argue for this position by inference to the best explanation, and I show that this new type of physicalism does not hold promise of more explanatory prowess than its relevant rivals, and that, whether it is better than its rivals or not, it is doubtful whether it would furnish us with genuine explanations of the phenomenal at all
Abstract: The mind-body problem arises because all theories about mind-brain connections are too deeply obscure to gain general acceptance. This essay suggests a clear, simple, mind-brain solution that avoids all these perennial obscurities. (1) It does so, first of all, by reworking Strawson and Stoljar’s views. They argue that while minds differ from observable brains, minds can still be what brains are physically like behind the appearances created by our outer senses. This could avoid many obscurities. But to clearly do so, it must first clear up its own deep obscurity about what brains are like behind appearances, and how they create the mind’s privacy, unity and qualia – all of which observable brains lack. (2) This can ultimately be done with a clear, simple assumption: our consciousness is the physical substance that certain brain events consist of beyond appearances. For example, the distinctive electrochemistry in nociceptor ion channels wholly consists of pain. This rejects that pain is a brain property: instead it’s a brain substance that occupies space in brains, and exerts forces by which it’s indirectly detectable via EEGs. (3) This assumption is justified because treating pains as physical substances avoids the perennial obscurities in mind-body theories. For example, this ‘clear physicalism’ avoids the obscure nonphysical pain of dualism and its spinoffs. Pain is instead an electrochemical substance. It isn’t private because it’s hidden in nonphysical minds, but instead because it’s just indirectly detected in the physical world in ways that leave its real nature hidden. (4) Clear physicalism also avoids puzzling reductions of private pains into more fundamental terms of observable brain activity. Instead pain is a hidden, private substance underlying this observable activity. Also, pain is fundamental in itself, for it’s what some brain activity fundamentally consists of. This also avoids reductive idealist claims that the world just exists in the mind. They yield obscure views on why we see a world that isn’t really out there. (5) Clear physicalism also avoids obscure claims that pain is information processing which is realizable in multiple hardwares (not just in electrochemistry). Molecular neuroscience now casts doubt on multiple realization. Also, it’s puzzling how abstract information gets ‘realized’ in brains and affects brains (compare ancient quandries on how universals get embodied in matter). A related idea is that of supervenient properties in nonreductive physicalism. They involve obscure overdetermination and emergent consciousness. Clear physicalism avoids all this. Pain isn’t an abstract property obscurely related to brains – it’s simply a substance in brains. (6) Clear physicalism also avoids problems in neuroscience. Neuroscience explains the mind’s unity in problematic ways using synchrony, attention, etc.. Clear physicalism explains unity in terms of intense neuroelectrical activity reaching continually along brain circuits as a conscious whole. This fits evidence that just highly active, highly connected circuits are fully conscious. Neuroscience also has problems explaining how qualia are actually encoded by brains, and how to get from these abstract codes to actual pain, fear, etc.. Clear physicalism explains qualia electrochemically, using growing evidence that both sensory and emotional qualia correlate with very specific electrical channels in neural receptors. Multiple-realization advocates overlook this important evidence. (7) Clear physicalism thus bridges the mind-brain gulf by showing how brains can possess the mind’s qualia, unity and privacy – and how minds can possess features of brain activity like occupying space and exerting forces. This unorthodox nonreductive physicalism may be where physicalism leads to when stripped of all its reductive and nonreductive obscurities. It offers a clear, simple mind-body solution by just filling in what neuroscience is silent about, namely, what brain matter is like behind perceptions of it.
Abstract: The debate over physicalism in philosophy of mind can be seen as concerning an inconsistent tetrad of theses: (1) if physicalism is true, a priori physicalism is true; (2) a priori physicalism is false; (3) if physicalism is false, epiphenomenalism is true; (4) epiphenomenalism is false. This paper argues that one may resolve the debate by distinguishing two conceptions of the physical: on the theory-based conception
Abstract: For some fifty years now, nearly all work in mainstream analytic philosophy has made no serious attempt to understand the _nature of_ _physical reality,_ even though most analytic philosophers take this to be all of reality, or nearly all. While we've worried much about the nature of our own experiences and thoughts and languages, we've worried little about the nature of the vast physical world that, as we ourselves believe, has them all as only a small part