SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

A Problem About Intentionality for Dual-Aspect Monism
(Philosophy of Mind, English)

Dual-aspect monism is the view that while reality is fundamentally one, it nevertheless presents itself under two "aspects," one experiential and the other physical, both of which are equally fundamental and mutually irreducible. So pain, for example, while a single phenomenon, nevertheless can present itself to us both in its felt aspect and in a neurological one (as C-fiber firing). Dual-aspect monism has recently seen some new defenses, in line with the broader shift in philosophy of mind away from dualism and physicalism towards panpsychism and related positions (see, e.g., Atmanspacher, 2012; Benovsky, 2016; 2019; Skrbina, 2009; 2014).

A crucial challenge for dual-aspect monism is, naturally, how to articulate a suitable notion of an "aspect." Aspects have to be something more than properties, or dual-aspect monism would slide back into a property dualist position (Skrbina, 2014: 228-9). Instead, recent dual-aspect monists hold that aspects are ways the world "displays" itself (Skrbina, 2014), or "perspectives" on the world (Benovsky, 2019).

However, this raises a problem. Ways of displaying or perspectives are both mentalistic phenomena: in particular, they both involve the idea of an intentional relation to what displays itself. But this mentalistic construal of the ways of knowing is hard to reconcile with its monistic, realistic metaphysical attitude. The problem this leads to is that the mind must both itself (metaphysically) be mental, but must (epistemologically) be able to apprehend both aspects.

So under what aspect does the mind itself fall? (1) If it is mental, the problem arises that the phenomenal aspect only apprehends things directly (compare the felt aspect of pain). So the dual-aspect monist would be pressed to find an account of sensory perception, in this case -- in particular, they would have to find a way to account for their own statement that the world displays itself under a physical aspect. (2) The opposite thing would happen if the dual-aspect monist claims that the mind is primarily physical: they would then face the standard physicalist problem of accounting for the phenomenal aspect. (3) They should therefore claim that the mind is both physical and mental; but this both goes against their own claim that the mental is confined to the mental aspect, and it is arguably contradictory.

I conclude that dual-aspect monism faces an important problem about intentionality. Before dual-aspect monism can be intelligible as a theory of the mind itself -- instead of just sensations and physical phenomena -- it has to develop an adequate theory of intentionality.

Chair: Alexander Gebharter
Time: 10:40-11:10, 20 September 2019 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.007

Ruben Noorloos 
(Central European University, Hungary)

Ruben Noorloos is a PhD student in Philosophy at Central European University. He works on Spinoza's mind-body parallelism and its implications and applications in contemporary philosophy of mind.

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