University of Tasmania
Final Thesis - OSBORN.pdf (2.19 MB)

A constitutive dual‑aspect monist panpsychism

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posted on 2024-06-07, 02:42 authored by Nicholas OsbornNicholas Osborn

In this thesis I present a panpsychist system, including an attack on physicalism. The attack on physicalism relies centrally on the so-called Property Dualism Argument (PDA). PDA affects several different physicalist positions. With a few exceptions, physicalists agree that phenomenal properties exist and that for every such property it is identical with some physical property, i.e., the identity theory. PDA shows that the identity theory leads to a dualism of metaphysical modes of presentation (MMoPs). MMoPs, roughly, are the features of our referents that make reference possible. MMoPs might be either properties or aspects, so a dualism of MMoPs could signify either property dualism or dual-aspect monism.
Two physicalist strategies do fall outside the range of PDA. Strong emergentism escapes PDA because it rejects the identity theory. The phenomenal concept strategy (PCS) accepts the identity theory but rejects another premise that figures in my formulation of PDA. Neither strategy ultimately works. The problem with strong emergentism appears when we probe beyond talk of higher and lower “strata” or “levels” of being in an effort to define the relation between physical and phenomenal properties. The only plausible candidate is the synchronic quasi-causal relation entertained by the British emergentists, which faces a slew of issues. The problem with PCS-but Brian Loar’s system in particular—is that it entails several claims about the structure of physical and phenomenal reference, not all of which can be true.
Abandoning emergentism and PCS, I argue for the dual-aspect monist interpretation of PDA’s conclusion. On this view, physicality and phenomenality are different aspects of the same unitary property, and it is these aspects which play the role of physical and phenomenal MMoPs. I wed dual-aspect monism to a view known in the metaphysics of properties as powerful qualities theory, producing a powerful qualia theory of properties. The powerful qualia theory of properties in turn implies panpsychism.
I defend panpsychism against two versions of the Combination Problem: the Subject Combination Problem and the Revelation Problem. The Subject Combination Problem asks how macrosubjects of the kind associated with human consciousness arise from the trillions of microsubjects which panpsychism must presumably posit at the bottom level. The appearance of a problem is rooted in the widespread intuition that subjects do not simply sum into subjects, which I aim to overturn. This leads me to defend a universalist account of subject-summing, according to which every property, including every gerrymandered sum, has (or, rather, is) its own subject.
The Revelation Problem points to an inconsistency between how human experience seems to be constituted upon introspection and how it is constituted according to panpsychism. Panpsychism states that human experience is composed of many, many microqualitative properties. But human experience does not seem this way, introspectively. I argue that human consciousness is as rich as panpsychism straightforwardly entails, but we do not notice our own phenomenal riches due to a constant or near-constant state of introspective attentional blindness. I briefly explore whether meditation or psychedelics can disable this state.
Apparently, my solution to the Revelation Problem leaves no space for the principle Transparency, according to which we enjoy essence-capturing access to our own experience. But maintaining Transparency is an appealing goal for panpsychists because it forms a useful support for epistemological arguments against physicalism. Thus I end by proposing a weaker version of Transparency which is compatible with my solution to the Revelation Problem but still serves certain epistemological arguments against physicalism, notably PDA.



  • PhD Thesis


x, 207 pages


School of Humanities


University of Tasmania

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