Living without microphysical supervenience

Philosophical Studies 179 (2):405-428 (2021)
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Abstract

The Doctrine of Microphysical Supervenience states that microphysical duplicates cannot differ in their intrinsic properties. According to Merricks :59–71, 1998a, Objects and persons, Oxford University Press, 2001), however, this thesis is false, since microphysical duplicates can differ with respect to the intrinsic property of consciousness. In my view, Merricks’ argument is plausible, and extant attempts to reject it are problematic. However, the argument also threatens to make consciousness appear mysterious, by implying that consciousness facts fail to be microphysically determined and that there can be brute and inexplicable differences in consciousness between material things. The paper therefore develops an account that can respect the soundness of Merricks’ argument while avoiding these problematic consequences. At the heart of the proposal is the idea that consciousness can be microphysically grounded despite failing to microphysical supervene. The proposed view also has the interesting consequence that consciousness is an intrinsic property despite depending on extrinsic factors for its instantiation.

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Alex Moran
Trinity College, Dublin

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