Work in (what I like to call) Progress

Here are some papers I am currently working on, more or less, and some are very old now so this page has become more of an archive than a development zone. I'd welcome any comments you might have. They are in PDF format unless otherwise noted. For details of publication, see my CV available on my main webpage. These papers are, of course, © William Seager.

This paper reviews the key arguments which make consciousness seem a very strange interloper into an otherwise purely physical world fundamentally devoid of it. The paper then considers the "natural argument" for panpsychism, but goes on to develop a kind of Jamesian neutral monism that, it seems to me now, might better situate consciousness in the natural world. The core idea here is to take what I call "presence" as fundamental reality, from which both the world of physical things and conscious minds are derivative entities. The paper is a draft on one to appear in the Journal of Consciousness Studies.

This is a draft of a paper intended for a Ronnie de Sousa festchrift. I try to explore, explain and extend the idea that emotions are nature's way of solving the frame problem. This involves linking emotions to a kind of represenationalist projectivism in which what de Sousa calls axiological properties appear in experience. These properties are merely projective, but supervene on Gibsonian affordances.

I read the very interesting 2017 paper by Brian Cutter ("The metaphysical implications of the moral significance of consciousness". Philosophical Perspectives, 31 (1): pp. 103–30) and started writing up a summary which turned into a response. Cutter has a neat argument, but I think it leads to the implausible conclusion that no property with moral significance can be materialistically reduced.

Although David Bohm's interpretation of quantum mechanics is sometimes thought to be a kind of regression towards classical thinking, it is in fact an extremely radical metaphysics of nature. The view goes far beyond the familiar but perennially peculiar non-locality and entanglement of quantum systems. In this paper, which is a philosophical exploration, I examine three core features of Bohm's metaphysical views which were both supported by features of quantum mechanics and which can be integrated into a comprehensive system. These are the holistic nature of the world, the role of a unique kind of information as the ontological basis of the world and the integration of mentality into this basis as an essential and irreducible aspect of it. This is a draft of a paper to appear in Entropy.

This is a draft of a paper now in Rocco Gennaro (ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Consciousness.

This paper is a general discussion of the theoretical virtues of panpsychism as an approach to the problem of consciousness. It outlines especially the "Russellian" idea that consciousness could stand as the intrinsic ground of the system of relations or structure which science discerns, and beyond which science cannot go.

The problem of integrating consciousness into our scientific, physicalist picture of the world has proved remarkably difficult. One possible explanation of the difficulty is that we the victims of an illusion. Although, so to speak, self evidently ridiculous, the claim that consciousness is in some significant sense illusory can be defended. I examine two interesting approaches and argue that ultimately they fail to even begin to show that consciousness is an illusion.
Hans Primas (1928-2014) was a theoretical chemist who mostly worked and taught at the ETH in Zurich. In November 2015 a memorial symposium was held at the ETH. Primas had substantial philosophical interests, both in the philosophy of science (especially, naturally enough, the philosophy of chemistry) and in metaphysics. This paper is about his views on emergence and their relation to the so-called many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and also some (even) more speculative metaphysical issues he discussed near the end of his career.
Physicalism is the view that everything that exists is ultimately physical. It is the dominant metaphysics of nature in the current age despite facing a number of formidable challenges. Here I examine the reasons we have for believing in physicalism. It will turn out that the undeniable success of physicalism heretofore may in fact undercut the claim that physicalism deserves wholesale, even if provisional, acceptance. My argument stems from noting the disparity between `ontological' physicalism - a doctrine solely about the nature of things - and `epistemic' physicalism, a doctrine asserting the physical explicability of everything. The reasons we have for accepting physicalism necessarily stem from the history of success of epistemic physicalism. The problem of consciousness throws up a roadblock on this path toward physicalism, which then undercuts the grounds we have for endorsing ontological physicalism. This argument can be expressed in Bayesian form, which makes clearer the perhaps precarious position in which modern physicalism finds itself. I end with some more or less tentative suggestions for alternative metaphysical frameworks.
David Chalmers has noted a host of difficulties which face panpsychism stemming from the so- called "combination problem". In this paper, I try to show that a panpsychism based on a kind of mental infusion (see paper immediately below) can respond to these objections with some hope of success.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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. Following others, I discuss how their logical possibility has important implications for physicalism and interesting connections with the doctrine of epiphenomenalism.
[Note 1: 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 2: this is just an html file and should be readable in any browser.]
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.
[Note 1: 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 2: this is simply an HTML file; any browser should be able to render it directly.]
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.
[Note: 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.]
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 advanced by Peter Carruthers in his 1996 Language, Thought and Consciousness.
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). Note added: I wonder if anyone can read WordPerfect files anymore.]
This is 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.
This is 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.
This is 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").
This is a paper generalizing Dretske's account of introspection - based upon a representational theory of consciousness - to non-perceptual mental states, particularly tobelief and desire.
This is 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".
This is a paper on Roger Penrose's famous (infamous?) defence of John Lucas's argument that Gödel's much more 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?).
This is 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).

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