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Metaphysics of Mind Workshop

Research Project: Language and Mind

December 2 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

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There are various recent theories of what is the relationship between the mental and the physical (such as grounding theories and panpsychism). This workshop is an opportunity to explore new theories and arguments concerning the metaphysics of the mind. This could be about mental properties in general or a specific kind of mental properties (e.g., phenomenal properties or propositional attitudes). Some relevant questions are: Are mental properties and physical properties identical? If they are distinct, what’s the relationship between them? What considerations can help us decide between different metaphysical theories about the mind? Is the explanatory gap a problem for physicalism? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each theory?



9:45 – 10:00 Coffee

10:00 – 11:00 Speaker 1 Daniel Stoljar (ANU): Structuralism and the Problem of Consciousness

11:00 – 11:15 Break

11:15 – 12:15 Speaker 2 Umut Baysan (Oxford): The Causal Argument for Russellian Panpsychism

12:15 – 13:15 Lunch Break

13:15 – 14:15 Speaker 3 Andreas Elpidorou (Louisville): Physicalism, for the Scientifically Minded

14:15 – 14:30 Break

14:30 – 15:30 Speaker 4 Barbara Montero (CUNY): Mind without Matter

15:30 – 15:45 Break

15:45 – 16:45 Speaker 5 Jessica Wilson (Toronto): Identity and Relative Fundamentality


David Stoljar (ANU)

Title:  Structuralism and the Problem of Consciousness
Abstract:  Structuralist approaches to physical properties have played a big role in philosophical discussions of consciousness in recent years, mainly through the development of what has come to be called “Russellian monism”—an approach in philosophy of mind that is exciting because of its promise to move us beyond the dualist-physicalist standoff. In the first part of this talk, I will set out Russellian monism, explaining its differences and similarities to various nearby views. In the second part, I will raise some questions about what a structuralist approach to physical properties could amount to in the context of debates about consciousness.


Umut Baysan (Oxford)

Title: The Causal Argument for Russellian Panpsychism

Abstract: According to Russellian panpsychism, the fundamental categorical properties that ground dispositional properties and conscious experiences of ordinary creatures like us are phenomenal properties. Its proponents admit that this claim is highly counterintuitive because it implies that phenomenal consciousness is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality. However, they argue that the counter-intuitiveness of Russellian panpsychism can be overcome because it is uniquely well-suited to integrate consciousness in the causal order and hence explain mental causation. If this argument is correct, then Russellian panpsychism is more credible than its rivals, in particular than traditional forms of dualism, as dualist theories allegedly face insurmountable difficulties with regards to mental causation. In this paper, I argue that in explaining mental causation, the superiority of Russellian panpsychism over dualism is illusory. This is because, first, the problems that dualism faces regarding mental causation are not as serious as they appear to be. More specifically, neither accepting epiphenomenalism nor denying the causal closure of the physical is as problematic as some implications of Russellian panpsychism. And, second, Russellian panpsychism’s explanation of mental causation leaves much to be desired. There may be other considerations in favour of Russellian panpsychism, but explaining mental causation is not one.


Andreas Elpidorou (Louisville)

Title: Physicalism, for the Scientifically Minded

Abstract: Within recent philosophy of science, something like a consensus has emerged: explanations in the life sciences, and specifically those in neuroscience, are such that describe mechanisms. Call this popular view of explanation “New Mechanism.” The talk will examine the ontological commitments of New Mechanism and will argue that it is compatible with both physicalist and anti-physicalist conceptions of our world. As such, physicalists attracted to New Mechanism are faced with a choice. They can either make New Mechanism more metaphysically stringent by adding metaphysical requirements that ought to be met in order for a phenomenon to be mechanistically explained or they can adopt a new form of physicalism that is friendly to New Mechanism. The talk takes the latter option. It presents and defends a new physicalism that suits the needs of New Mechanists who are also physicalists.


Barbara Montero (CUNY)

Title: Mind without Matter

Abstract: TBA


Jessica Wilson (Toronto)

Title: Identity and Relative Fundamentality

Abstract: Reductive physicalists think that mental states are type- or token-identical to physical states, and they moreover think that mental states are less fundamental than physical states. This combination of views poses a puzzle: given Leibniz’s Law, how can there be a difference in relative fundamentality as among identical states or other goings-on? In this talk, I canvas certain suggestions, and offer my own account of how to make sense of reductive physicalism and other identity theories.


December 2
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm


A virtual workshop by Zoom
The University
St Andrews, KY16 9L United Kingdom
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Other events in Language and Mind

Aug 2019: Fifth Philosophy of Language and Mind Network Conference

Apr 2019: Semantics/Arche Logic Group: No Meeting

Sep 2018: Language and Mind Seminar: Planning Meeting

Jun 2016: Concepts and Understanding Workshop

Jun 2017: Slurring and Swearing Conference