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Anthropological Monism and the Problem of Consciousness

with Alexander James

Friday, September 29, 2017
Tanner Library, Room 459
2:30 pm – 4:30 pm


The problem of consciousness can be schematized as a prima facie conflict between the claims made on our reason from three domains of understanding: commonsense, science and conceptual analysis. The leading resolutions to this problem take the appearance of conflict at face value and resolve the conflict by making revisions to something we take ourselves to know from one of these three domains. In effect, these resolutions tend to privilege two of these domains of understanding at the expense of the third. This accounts for the various forms of paradoxicality attaching to the varieties of eliminative materialism, reductive materialism, non-reductive materialism and dualism, respectively, forms of paradoxicality that seem to remain despite efforts to explain them away. 

I suggest that increased attention to conceptual analysis, in particular, category theory, reveals the prima facie conflict between commonsense, science and conceptual analysis (constitutive of the problem of consciousness) to be mere appearance. Such a resolution allows us to respect the prima facie knowledge-claims from each of these three domains of understanding, giving due consideration to the claims of commonsense, science and conceptual analysis. The name I give to the philosophical framework consistent with this resolution is “anthropological monism”.

I explore why, when various unclear and indistinct categorial ideas are in place, it is difficult to see the possibility of anthropological monism, and why, when these ideas are in place, we seem forced to accept the appearance of conflict at face value and choose among the standard options.

Last Updated: 9/13/17