Pansentient Monism: Formulating Panpsychism as a Genuine Psycho-Physical Identity Theory [PhD thesis: Abstract & Contents Pages]

Dissertation, University of Essex (2019)
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The thesis that follows proffers a solution to the mind-matter problem, the problem as to how mind and matter relate. The proposed solution herein is a variant of panpsychism – the theory that all (pan) has minds (psyche) – that we name pansentient monism. By defining the suffix 'psyche' of panpsychism, i.e. by analysing what 'mind' is (Chapter 1), we thereby initiate the effacement of the distinction between mind and matter, and thus advance a monism. We thereafter critically examine the prevalent view, antithetical to a pansentient monism, that mind is not identical to matter but emergent therefrom (Chapter 2). This anti-emergentist critique acts also as a fortification of the Genetic Argument for panpsychism: if mind is not emergent (nor distinct) from matter, mind must always have existed with matter. But what is 'matter'? Chapter 3 investigates what we understand by 'matter', or 'the physical', and exposes it as a highly deficient concept and percept that in concreto points to its identity with that denoted by 'mind'. This also acts as a fortification of the Abstraction Argument for panpsychism, employing a new taxonomy of physicalism and a new taxonomy of the varieties of abstraction. Thus do we reach a monism that is a parsimonious psycho-physical identity theory. But here we face what can be called The Identity Problem for Panpsychism: if our panpsychism is a psycho-physical identity theory, how can it respond to the powerful objections that beset the identity theory of the twentieth century? In Chapter 4 it will be argued that, like emergentism, this psycho-neural identity theory presupposed a deficient concept of 'matter', down to which mind was reduced away, let alone identified. But to identify down phenomena to what is actually an abstraction is to commit failure of explanation. When the theory is amended accordingly, we move from a psycho-neural identity theory to a genuine psycho-physical identity theory that as such can overcome the aforementioned identity problem. Furthermore, as Chapter 5 clarifies, our pansentient monism has, in addition to parsimony, the explanatory power to resolve the problem of mental causation that afflicts both the reductive physicalism of psycho-neural identity theory and the non-reductive physicalism of emergentism, by genuinely identifying physical and mental causation. Jaegwon Kim considers the place of consciousness in a physical world and the nature of mental causation to be the two key components of the mind-matter problem. Through the critical analysis of our prosaic understanding of mind and matter in this thesis, which incorporates the thought of both classical and contemporary thinkers through a novel fusion, it is hoped that both components are addressed and redressed. That is to say that I present this pansentient monism as a plausible, parsimonious, explanatory, and thus, I think, powerful position towards this ever-perplexing mind-matter mystery. [This thesis was passed in January 2019 with viva examination from Galen Strawson and Joel Krueger.

Author's Profile

Peter Sjöstedt-Hughes
University of Exeter (PhD)


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