Can the Russellian Monist Escape the Epiphenomenalist’s Paradox?

Topoi 39 (5):1093-1102 (2020)
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Russellian monism—an influential doctrine proposed by Russell (The analysis of matter, Routledge, London, 1927/1992)—is roughly the view that physics can only ever tell us about the causal, dispositional, and structural properties of physical entities and not their categorical (or intrinsic) properties, whereas our qualia are constituted by those categorical properties. In this paper, I will discuss the relation between Russellian monism and a seminal paradox facing epiphenomenalism, the paradox of phenomenal judgment: if epiphenomenalism is true—qualia are causally inefficacious—then any judgment concerning qualia, including epiphenomenalism itself, cannot be caused by qualia. For many writers, including Hawthorne (Philos Perspect 15:361–378, 2001), Smart (J Conscious Stud 11(2):41–50, 2004), and Braddon-Mitchell and Jackson (The philosophy of mind and cognition, Blackwell, Malden, 2007), Russellian monism faces the same paradox as epiphenomenalism does. I will assess Chalmers’s (The conscious mind: in search of a fundamental theory. Oxford University Press, New York, 1996) and Seager’s (in: Beckermann A, McLaughlin BP (eds) The Oxford handbook of philosophy of mind. Oxford University Press, New York, 2009) defences of Russellian monism against the paradox, and will put forward a novel argument against those defences.

Author's Profile

Lok-Chi Chan
National Taiwan University


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