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Work in (what I like to call) Progress

Here are some papers I am currently working on (more or less, and some are quite old now). I'd welcome any comments you might have. They are in PDF format (follow the link at bottom if you need a reader) unless otherwise noted. These papers are,of course, © William Seager.

"Panpsychism, Aggregation and Combinatorial Infusion". Many forms of panpsychism have their own problem of emergence. How do the putative mental properties of the elementary constituents of things "combine" to form more complex mental states? If this is a kind of radical emergence, then why not let mentality radically emerge from the purely physical base properties? If this is benign emergence, then complex mental properties threaten to become epiphenomenal. This paper proposes a course between these two unattractive options.

"Concessionary Dualism and Physicalism". Concessionary forms of dualism and physicalism are versions of these general theories which admit the possibility of their rivals. That is, concessionary dualism admits that physicalism is possible; concessionary physicalism admits the possibility of dualism. Reflection on the philosophical zombie thought experiment reveals the difficulty in formulating either a consistent concessionary dualism or concessionary physicalism.

"The Intrinsic Nature Argument for Panpsychism". A response article to Galen Strawson's "Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism". I try to get clear about exactly what the 'intrinsic nature' argument is, and how/whether it works (to appear in JCS).

"Rosenberg, Reducibility and Consciousness". A response article to Gregg Rosenberg's book A Place for Consciousness. Closely related to the article above, I explore how Rosenberg's version of the intrinsic nature argument compares to a similar argument that Leibniz did, or might have, put forward (to appear in Psyche).

"Panpsychism". A survey of the history and argumentative status of the age-old doctrine of panpsychism: the view that mind is both metaphysically fundamental and ubiquitous.

"A Brief History of the Philosophical Problem of Consciousness". A survey of the history of the problem of consciousness up to the beginning of the 20th century.

"Uncertain Knowledge and Reflective Epistemology" This is a paper on epistemology, starting from a defence of the so-called "known entailment closure principle", and advancing to a view of knowledge in which the epistemic responsibilities of knowers are relatively undemanding. It seems to me that once my belief system is "in order" then it is up to the world, so to speak, to get into line with my beliefs. If it does, then I know; if it doesn't, then I don't know but I am not at fault. Often enough, just believing the true is enough for knowledge.

"Are Zombies Logically Possible? And Why It Matters" Robert Kirk has recently advanced an argument against the mere logical possibility of philosophical zombies (i.e. creatures physically just like us, living in worlds where the physical laws are the same as they are here, but which are totally non-conscious). I contend here that Kirk's argument does not succeed, and that zombies remain a "live option", so to speak. I note also that their logical possibility has important implications for physicalism and interesting connections with the doctrine of epiphenomenalism. The research for this paper was greatly aided by a generous grant from the University of Arizona and the Fetzer Institute, for which I would like to express my thanks.
[NOTE: this is just an html file and should be readable in any browser.]

Tucson 2002 - Workshop Slides

"Whitehead and the Revival (?) of Panpsychism" This short paper notes the somewhat surprising rebirth of an argument for panpsychism (one based upon the need for an intelligible intrinsic nature for matter). Recently, some analytic philosophers appear to be taking this argument seriously again, although, it must be said, with more or less reluctance. The core idea here seems to have figured prominently in the twentieth century's most prominent panpsychist, Alfred North Whitehead and there may be an interesting confluence of views here. The research for this paper was greatly aided by a generous grant from the University of Arizona and the Fetzer Institute, for which I would like to express my thanks. [Note: this is simply an HTML file; any browser should be able to render it directly.]

"Emotional Introspection" The representational theory of consciousness has many virtues, not least a natural and highly plausible theory of the nature of introspection. In this paper I want to extend this theory of introspection to include emotional states. Emotional consciousness has several interesting features, which force certain additions to the representational theory of consciousness itself and which require a somewhat more complex account of introspection. The research for this paper was greatly aided by a generous grant from the University of Arizona and the Fetzer Institute, for which I would like to express my thanks.

"On Dispositional HOT Theories of Consciousness" - Higher Order Thought -- HOT -- theories of consciousness claim that what makes a mental state, s, a conscious state is an appropriate higher-order thought about s. An unusual version of the HOT theory requires only that the lower-order mental state be disposed to cause an appropriate higher-order thought. I argue that no such dispositional HOT theory can be correct. The particular target of the argument is the HOT theory recently advanced by Peter Carruthers in his 1996 Language, Thought and Consciousness.

"Emergence and Supervenience" - this is a paper which explores the connection between the supervenience of high-level structure upon low-level structure (as in the mentalsupervening upon the physical) and the doctrine of emergentism. The paper is somewhat technical and a little dry, but I think it points out some interesting and surprising relationships, first between supervenience and the temporal evolution of the states of a system and, second, between various kinds of supervenience and corresponding varieties of emergence. [Here it is in its native wordperfect format, in which the links between text and figures are working: WP version. (warning: rather a large file)]

"Generalized Epiphenomenalism" - a paper in which I try to argue that a plausible understanding of the scientific picture of the world leads to a kind of rampant epiphenomenalism. Perhaps surprisingly, this wouldn't be so bad, except that it reveals an unresolvable and fundamental incoherence within that picture: high-level features turn out to be mind-dependent but the mind itself turns out to be a high-level feature.

"Real Patterns and Surface Metaphysics" - a paper on Daniel Dennett's philosophy of "patterns", which ends up with the strange conclusion that Dennett ought to embrace scientific anti-realism as the only way to save the intentional stance theory of mind.

"Emergence and Efficacy" - a paper that argues that the Scientific Picture of the World threatens to demonstratethat the mind must be epiphenomenal (ties in with the paper on Dennett above as well as"Generalized Epiphenomenalism").

"Introspection and the Elementary Acts of Mind" - a paper generalizing Dretske's account of introspection -- based upona representational theory of consciousness -- to non-perceptual mental states, particularly tobelief and desire.

"The Reality of Now" - a paper on McTaggert's argument, which has several prominent modern defenders, that time is unreal. I'm afraid I think it is McTaggert's argument that's "unreal".

"Yesterday's Algorithm: Penrose on the Gödel Argument" - a paper on Roger Penrose's recent defence of John Lucas's argument that Gödel's famous incompleteness theorem shows that the human mind cannot be understood in mechanical (or, nowadays, computational) terms. Although most of the objections to Lucas and Penrose are correct there is still something strange going on here (so I think anyway, is there anything here?).

"The Constructed and the Secret Self" - a paper contrasting the self we know by introspection, a self which is constructed by us with the connivance of society, with the "core" self that must exist to ground action and perception as "centred" upon a particular being in the world (that is, one's self). [The final version of this paper is to appear in a book edited by Andrew Brook and Richard DeVidi Self-Reference and Self-Knowledge.]


These papers are all in PDF format: Get Acrobat Reader.

Thanks for the beautiful applet.