In preparation for a series of meetup topics we plan for the coming year on various aspects of mind including the nature of conscious experience, the meaning-laden aspect of things perceived by mind (sometimes referred to as "intentionality"), and the self, the next meetup will focus on what is available to form minds out of: what could a mind possibly consist of? We seem to have some idea (or think we do) of what ordinary physical objects are made of. Science---physics, in particular---is in the business of informing of us that. But what about mental experience?
This is the classic mind/body problem and we will begin by laying out the logical possibilities for what there is along with the arguments that recommend them and the problems with those arguments. (After all, this wouldn't still be a "problem" after thousands of years if we had unproblematic arguments.)
There are only a few real contenders---by my count, four---for what there is in the world:
1. Dualism: the world is composed of distinct physical and distinct mental entities.
2. Monism, of which there are three kinds:
a. Physicalism: all substance is material stuff. Mental things are either not real (in some sense) or reducible to material ones. (This will be the main topic of this meetup.)
b. Idealism: everything that is is a perception of a mind; "to be is to be perceived" (as Berkeley put it). Who needs realism about material things when perceptions of them will do?
c. Neutral Monism: the physical features of entities are real and so are the mental ones but there is really only one kind of thing in the universe which has them both in its nature. Panpsychism (or Panexperientialism) fits here and is the most discussed version of this possibility.
Physicalism is popular among philosophers these days. Dualism has been, too, in the past and still is in various forms. Idealism and panpsychism are distinct minority views, but a minority view in philosophy may not play the same role it does in science or politics. I think minority views in philosophy just bide their time.
Where we come out on questions about the nature minds perhaps depends on what we think it is possible the world is made of---or perhaps it works in reverse? We may start with commitments about minds which determine our ontology. We'll see...
Part I Physicalism
This meetup will begin with a brief overview of the ontological possibilities then focus on physicalism, what it is, arguments for, and against it.
Here's my writeup.
Metaphysics, modality and the mind
Gene will also present on these topics. See his writeup.
More readings and talks on physicalism:
Daniel Stoljar entry on physicalism at the SEP
Shelley Kagan engagingly discusses physicalism and dualism about half way through this lecture (in the context of personal identity).
A paper by David Papineau on the history of physicalism
Papineau and Philip Goff debate physicalism
David Chalmers briefly on consciousness as a problem for physicalism.
Much more to come when we move on to the other ontological possibilities...
From the Wikipedia entry on the mind/body problem