Monday, September 02, 2013

Russellian Monism and the Identity Theory of Properties

Here is a draft paper on a topic discussed a fair amount on this blog in the past.
Comments or suggestions are welcome.

Russellian Monism and the Identity Theory of Properties

[UPDATE: 6 Sept. 2013 - Very slightly revised from 2 Sept. version]

Here's the introduction:

Russellian Monism is an attractive approach to the mind/body problem. It promises to put both mental and physical phenomena on a common ontological ground. By providing a place in nature for the qualitative properties featured in conscious experience, it disarms prominent conceivability arguments against materialism. Russell’s approach can be strengthened by employing elements of a more contemporary metaphysical framework.  There is a particularly good fit with an account of the nature of properties set out by C.B. Martin and John Heil. Labeled the identity theory of properties, this view posits that properties are at once dispositional and qualitative.

This paper is organized as follows. In section one I offer an overview of Russell’s theory. In section two I briefly show how a key insight from Russell’s work has figured in contemporary debates in philosophy of mind. Section three takes a closer look at Russell’s metaphysics; this prepares the way for seeing how his theory might be modified in light of more recent work. Section four introduces the idea that the metaphysics of dispositional and categorical properties can play a role in a Russell-style account. Section five outlines the identity theory of properties and argues that its features can strengthen Russellian monism. In section six I consider objections to the modified theory, and discuss where it needs to be supplemented in order to more fully address the challenges of explaining mind.


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