Beyond Reductionism: Contingent Grounding Physicalism
This project addresses the fundamental question at the heart of the mind-body problem: what is the nature of the mind, and how does it relate to the physical world? Two main views have traditionally been defended: physicalism, on which matter is more fundamental than mind; and dualism, on which matter and mind are equally fundamental.
Defenders of these views have mainly debated whether mind and matter are in principle separable. Dualists hold that they are separable, in that the connection between them is merely contingent; physicalists hold that they are inseparable, in that the connection between them is metaphysically necessary. In this project, we undercut this traditional approach to the mind-body problem and reframe the debate. On the one hand, we establish that dualists are correct that the connection between mind and matter is contingent. On the other hand, we show that this insight can be incorporated within a robustly physicalist framework. We achieve this by articulating and defending contingent grounding physicalism, which is the novel view that while the mind metaphysically depends on matter for its existence and its nature, the metaphysical laws governing the connection between mind and matter are contingent. In developing this view, we show that the mind-body debate must focus not on the separability of mind and matter, but on the nature of matter and how the mind arises from it.
Project manager: Prof Anandi Hattiangadi
Project participants: Prof Anandi Hattiangadi; Dr Alex Moran.
Our first conference will be held at Trinity College Dublin in July. (Click here for details.)