Naturalizing the Mind - Royal Road or Blind Alley?
April 27-28, 2014
Tucson AZ, USA

Keynote Talks

April 27, 9.30 am
William Seager (University of Toronto):
Naturalization: The Promises and Perils of a Philosophical Dream
The wellspring of naturalism is a laudable opposition to supernaturalism. The latter view holds that there are mysterious extra-mundane elements of reality, unruly intrusions into our world. The denial of supernaturalism is nice, but defining naturalism as this mere denial generates an extremely modest doctrine. The bite of naturalism arises when it aligns itself with a certain view of the world, a view which takes the physical – as described by fundamental physics and nothing more – as the totality of reality. The project of what might be called "strong naturalization" is then to show, for any phenomenon, how it depends upon, arises from and is "nothing over and above" the fundamental physical basis of the world. Since the middle of the last century it has become widely accepted that strong naturalization has almost succeeded. In broad outline, we are in possession of a naturalistic viewpoint which can, in the words of the physicist Sean Carroll, "account for everything we see in our everyday lives". Leaving aside residual controversy about this general claim, I want to focus on what seems to be the one remaining recalcitrant phenomenon: consciousness. Is consciousness truly a roadblock to naturalization? What are the special obstacles which consciousness has thrown up in the path of strong naturalization? From this point of view, the recent history of the philosophy of mind has a curious character of perpetual retreat, from the most ardent and clear cut modes of naturalization to ever more circuitous, circumscribed and hedged linkages to the stuff of fundamental physics. This curious philosophical trajectory forces us to consider whether strong naturalization is in fact unattainable. Is this project merely a dream, dashed by the fact that there are dreams? We should also ask, what would the failure of strong naturalization mean for philosophy and our general view of ourselves and our place in the world?

April 27, 2 pm
Michael Silberstein (Elizabethtown College):
Experience Unbound: Neutral Monism, Emergence And Extended Mind
The hard problem (HP) is a conceptual problem that cannot be resolved by any empirical means alone, but rather demands a metaphysical solution. The explanatory gap (EG) is at least in part an empirical problem, i.e., what would constitute a scientifically robust explanation of phenomenal experience (PE). There has been a renewed attempt on the part of some to provide an emergentist resolution to the HP and the EG. The hope was that such an account could provide an alternative to the odious choice between materialism and dualism without epiphenomenalist implications. Neutral monism in one form or another has often been taken as a competitor to an emergentist ontology of PE and is currently enjoying a resurgence in some quarters. Here it is argued that emergence and neutral monism properly conceived actually go hand in hand, and taken together, can discharge the HP without any hint of epiphenomenalism. Building on recent previous work (Silberstein and Chemero 2012a and b, Silberstein 2012) it will be further argued that extended accounts of cognitive science and neuroscience grounded in dynamical systems theory and graph theory, in combination with the new aforementioned ontology, could together help resolve the EG.

April 28, 9.30 am
Steve Horst (Wesleyan University):
Beyond Reduction
One of the most popular and long-lived approaches to naturalizing the mind is the attempt to reduce mental phenomena to physical, biological, or neural phenomena.Reductionism has held a special allure among philosophers for a number of reasons: the intuitive appeal of part-whole explanations, reductive explanation's resemblance to the axiomatic method in mathematics, its apparent promise as a strategy for unifying different knowledge domains, and the fact that true reductions, when successful, are almost unique in yielding both metaphysical necessity/and/ complete explanations.Reductionism was a very influential view in philosophy of science, both in early modernity and through much of the twentieth century, and some central contemporary issues in philosophy of mind – the explanatory gap and the hard problem of consciousness – are framed as claims that conscious mental states (and perhaps they alone) are not reducible to physical phenomena.In fact, however, most philosophers of science today would agree that true intertheoretic reductions are in fact rare even in the natural sciences.I propose an explanation of both the appeal and the failure of reductionism in terms of a cognitivist approach to philosophy of science called "Cognitive Pluralism", and then explore what implications post-reductionist philosophy of science has for philosophy of mind.If it is "explanatory gaps all the way down", what are the implications for dualism and for reductive, non-reductive and eliminative physicalisms?Is the mind-matter gap different from the other explanatory gaps?And, if the Cognitive Pluralist analysis is correct, is there any hope more generally for a "unified science", or that scientific theories generally can provide answers to metaphysical questions?

April 28, 2 pm
Harald Atmanspacher (ETH Zurich):
A New Kind of Reality - Varieties of Dual-Aspect Thinking
In the philosophy of mind and in psychology as well as cognitive science, the program of naturalizing the mind is conventionally understood as the attempt to reduce whatever appears mental to physical explanations. In recent decades this has become a central motif in cognitive neuroscience and consciousness studies, where it features as the reduction of conscious states to brain behavior. On the long run, the resulting physicalism can be viewed as a counterposition against both idealist positions and Cartesian dualism. But is physicalism the only alternative to them? The answer is no. At least since Spinoza, there is a tradition of dual-aspect thinking in which both the physical and the mental are construed as aspects of an underlying reality, which is itself neutral with respect to the mind-matter distinction. I will present and compare some of the variants of dual-aspect thinking in the 20th century, such as Betrand Russell's neutral monism, the holistic dual-aspect monism of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung, David Bohm's implicate order, and natural dualism due to Dave Chalmers. They can all be viewed as versions of a naturalization that aims at a concept of nature beyond the duality of the mental and the physical.