Open Viva-Voce by Mr. Siddharth S on 'A Study on the Metaphysics of Conscious Experience'
National Institute of Advanced Studies
Indian Institute of Science Campus
Title: A Study on the Metaphysics of Conscious Experience
Candidate: Mr. Siddharth S
School of Humanities
Advisor: Prof. Sangeetha Menon
Date: Monday, March 22, 2021
Time: 3:30 pm
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This thesis is a study on the place of consciousness in reality. In contemporary western philosophy, this question has taken the form of the hard problem of consciousness—the metaphysical question of how and why physical phenomena give rise to conscious experiences. Two kinds of views have framed the discourse around this problem—physicalism, the view that all concrete phenomena including conscious experiences are physical, and dualism, the view that conscious experiences are a second kind of phenomenon distinct from the physical. Both physicalism and dualism face seemingly intractable challenges and the hard problem remains an open question. In recent decades, Russellian panpsychism, the view that all concrete phenomena are physical and all fundamental physical entities are intrinsically experiential, has gained prominence as an alternative to physicalism and dualism. Proponents of panpsychism argue that it can address the shortcomings of both physicalism and dualism while retaining their advantages. However, panpsychism faces a metaphysical challenge of its own, the combination problem or the question of how experiences of fundamental physical entities combine to form experiences of higher-level entities such as human beings. Given this problem, critics of panpsychism argue that the view does not offer any explanatory advantage over physicalism and dualism. This thesis investigates the possibility of a satisfactory response to the combination problem within the framework of Russellian panpsychism. To do this, the thesis first explores the epistemological foundations of Russellian panpsychism, and in light of this, critically evaluates the various possible responses. It is argued that two specific panpsychist ontologies that do away with the need for combination can overcome the problem without facing explanatory gaps. Novel arguments against other panpsychist positions are also proposed.
All are invited to attend