Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Dualism of Perspectives, not Properties

[UPDATE 16 March 2009: the link to the Strawson paper below is unfortunately broken -- Strawson has a new home page, but it no longer has the link; the JCS special issue is also available on amazon.]

I recommend Justin’s recent post on his Panexperientialism blog. In it he looks at Fiona Macpherson’s reply to Galen Strawson’s 2006 Journal of Consciousness Studies target article on the mind-body problem: "Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism". Justin critiques section 3 of Macpherson’s article where she compares her summary of Strawson’s view -- which she characterizes as a micro-level variety of property dualism – to a possible alternative view where the experiential properties are the familiar "macro" human experiences. Justin concludes that the “micro” version is the superior view. I agree.

I want to say a few words prompted by the previous section of Macpherson’s paper. This is where she examined Strawson in relation to traditional categories of philosophical views and placed him the property-dualist “box” in the first place.

In addition to the Strawson’s original article and 17 responses including Macpherson’s, the JCS compilation in turn included an extended further reply by Strawson (unfortunately no free online version). My earlier post discussing this is here (more posts on Strawson here). While Macpherson (reasonably) uses excerpts from Strawson’s target article to argue that he is a substance monist (of sorts) and a property dualist, I think it’s important to note that he showed in his reply that he was intent on moving beyond these labels in his quest to understand how concrete reality can be all of one basic character, yet still support both irreducible experiential and non-experiential truths.

Here is my paraphrase of some of his key points (with which I concur).

If we were to resolve the tension between our preference for monism and reality’s apparent split into experiential and non-experiential aspects by giving up our commitment to one or the other aspect, we would be forced to give up the non-experiential. This is because experience is what we know best -- prior to our knowledge of other truths.

If all phenomena are experiential, and there is a pluralism of phenomena, then each phenomenon has both an “inside” and an “outside”. The dualism we seem forced to acknowledge is not an ontological dualism, but a dualism of perspectives. What we think of as non-experiential facts are third-person facts, but they are nonetheless experiential to participating systems. These third-person facts are in fact the causal relations and/or constitutive relations between and among experiential events.

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