Abstract. The neutralmonism suggested by Constantin Rădulescu-Motru was a theoretical frame intended to match the general idea of Kant’s apriorism with the results reached by physics and psychology at the beginning of the 20th Key words: transcendental aesthetic; consciousness in general; empirical consciousness; psychophysical parallelism; phenomenal ontology; scientistic ontology.
We agree with critics that enactive, sensorimotor, and ecological accounts of conscious experience do not in and of themselves fully deflate the hard problem of consciousness. As we noted in our earlier work, even if an extended account of cognition and intentionality allows us to be rid of qualia by deflating the dualism between intentionality and phenomenal experience, the heart of the hard problem, namely subjectivity, still remains. We argue that in order to resolve or deflate the hard problem the (...) hypothesis of extended consciousness needs to be understood as an expression of neutralmonism and can quite naturally be understood that way. (shrink)
Neutralmonism is a position in metaphysics defended by Mach, James, and Russell in the early twentieth century. It holds that minds and physical objects are essentially two different orderings of the same underlying neutral elements of nature. This paper sets out some of the central concepts, theses and the historical background of ideas that inform this doctrine of elements. The discussion begins with the classic neutralmonism of Mach, James, and Russell in the first (...) part of the paper, then considers recent neo-Russellian versions in the second half. The chances for a revival of neutralmonism are probably slight; its key ideas and starting points lie far from those in contemporary philosophy of mind. A better route might be through the philosophy of science and a deeper understanding of causation. (shrink)
It is argued that when it comes to the hard problem of consciousness neutralmonism beats out the competition. It is further argued that neutralmonism provides a unique route to a novel type of panentheism via Advaita Vedanta Hinduism.
This article introduces the concept of ‘hyperdimensional neutralmonism’ as an elaboration and exploration of neutralmonism. Neutralmonism states that there is a single type of neutral, ontologically primary ultimate, which both the physical and the mental supervene on (Banks Philosophical Psychology, 23(2), 173-187, 2010). Hyperdimensional neutralmonism (HNM) states that these ultimates exist in a more-than-4-dimensional realm and that the physical world of spacetime is a 4-dimensional aspect of this (...) realm. Consciousness is the localized protrusion of spacetime into more than four dimensions. In order to explain these concepts, I utilize an aquatic metaphor of vortices appearing within a physical ocean. I compare HNM to panqualityism, which is another version of neutralmonism (Coleman, Erkenntnis, 79(1), 19–44 2014 & Panpsychism: Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Godehard Bruntrup and Ludwig Jaskolla (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), pp. 249–282 2016), and cosmopsychism (Shani Philosophical Papers, 44(3), 389-437, 2015, Shani & Keppler, 2018) which relies on a similar aquatic metaphor. I argue that HNM is a viable means of addressing the mind–body problem and the hard problem of consciousness (Chalmers, 1996, 2015, Panpsychism: Contemporary Perspectives, 179(214), 2017, Chalmers, 2019). (shrink)
After thousands of years of work, the mind-body problem endures as one of the most tantalizing issues in metaphysics. For my purposes I formulate the question as: What is the relation between consciousness and matter? The solution to the mind-body problem that I offer is a version of neutralmonism, the view that mental and physical events are both to be derived from some stuff that in itself is neither physical nor mental. This paper specifies the conditions under (...) which consciousness and matter occur, rather than implying that thought and extension must be pervasive or that the difference between the mental and the physical is merely one of perspective or of conventional groupings of events, approaches that fail to do justice to our experience. My thesis is that neither consciousness nor matter is derived from the other, but rather both are constructions out of two relations of a single principle to itself, consciousness occurring within I-You, matter being an abstraction from I-it. An advantage of the proposal of the social character of consciousness is that it explains a feature of our world, the nearly identical extension of consciousness and reportability, which many commentators have noted but none explains. It may be thought that this coextension is logically or metaphysically necessary, but I show that this is false. (shrink)
Neutralmonism is the view that both ‘mind’ and ‘matter’ are grounded in a more fundamental form of reality that is intrinsically neither mental nor material. It has often been treated as an odd fringe theory deserving of at most a footnote in the broader philosophical debates. Yet such attitudes do a grave disservice to its sophistications and significance for late nineteenth and early twentieth-century philosophy of mind and psychology. This paper sheds light on this neglected view by (...) situating it within broader historical monist debates about the mind and bringing attention to one of its central internal disputes regarding ‘mental chemistry’. By taking a closer look at how Ernst Mach, William James, and Bertrand Russell address the question of whether and how our mental episodes are composed of more basic elements, it highlights deep differences among their conceptions of the fundamental ‘neutral stuff’ and its relations to ‘mind’ and ‘matter’. (shrink)
As some see it, an impasse has been reached on the mind- body problem between mainstream physicalism and mainstream dualism. So lately another view has been gaining popularity, a view that might be called the 'Russellian theory of mind' (RTM) since it is inspired by some ideas once put forth by Bertrand Russell. Most versions of RTM are panpsychist, but there is at least one version that rejects panpsychism and styles itself as physicalism, and neutralmonism is also (...) a possibility. In this paper I will attempt to sort out these different versions with a view to determining which, if any, have a chance of breaking the perceived impasse. The unsurprising conclusion will be that there are a lot of challenges ahead for the RTM theorist. The surprising conclusion will be that it's not clear that pan- psychist RTM holds an advantage over the other versions in this regard. (shrink)
Bertrand Russell’s writings on neutralmonism continue to exercise a profound influence on much work on panpsychism. In fact, many interpret his neutralmonism as ultimately constituting, entailing, or strongly suggesting some form of panpsychism. But the relationship between Russell’s theory and contemporary panpsychism is complicated. On one hand, his analysis of matter has a number of features that are congenial to panpsychism. On the other hand, his naturalistic analysis of mind is largely at odds with (...) panpsychism. Though Russell agrees that mental phenomena are likely present to some degree wherever there is biological life, he takes the overall evidence to suggest that mind and experience are neither ubiquitous nor fundamental features of the natural world. (shrink)
I set out the factors which tempt people into reading Ernst Mach's book The Analysis of Sensations as putting forward either a version of phenomenalism or a version of neutralmonism, and then assess the strengths and weaknesses of these two readings. I present an ‘internal’ view of that text, showing that it by no means mandates the phenomenalist reading, and that a case for something more like the neutral monist reading can be made from within that (...) book, indeed largely from within its famous first chapter. (shrink)
The book revives the neutralmonism of Mach, James, and Russell and applies the updated view to the problem of redefining physicalism, explaining the origins of sensation, and the problem of deriving extended physical objects and systems from an ontology of events.
Bertrand Russell in "My Philosophical Development" claimed he converted to neutralmonism in 1919, in the essay "On Propositions." I question whether Russell was really a complete neutral monist in the style of Mach and James and conclude that he was not. Russell's lingering commitment to image propositions and a linguistic theory of meaning and truth and falsity separate him from the more naturalistic causal theory of knowledge and error one finds in James and Mach.
The father of neutralmonism, Ernst Mach, argued that the fundamental constituents of the world are neither mental nor physical and that the distinction between the mental and physical ought to be erased. This article offers a reconstruction of Mach’s view. There is a “pure drive for knowledge” (reiner Erkenntnistrieb), and satisfying it, Mach argues, requires abandoning the mental/physical distinction. The reconstruction given will help to articulate and assess the differences between Mach’s position and Russell’s neutral (...) class='Hi'>monism, in which the distinction between the mental and physical is preserved even in the unified science of the future. (shrink)
The claim to be defended may be called phenomenological neutralmonism: phenomenological neutralmonism about perception (or selfless perception): ordinary perception does not intrinsically present us with the distinction between itself and its objects, that is, with the fact that its objects exist (or seem to exist) independently of the perceptual act.
Russell’s theory of desire in _The Analysis of_ Mind is subject to a seemingly overwhelming objection, apparently stated first by Wittgenstein and subsequently elaborated even more compellingly by Anthony Kenny. The puzzle is that, before he became a neutral monist, Russell had used essentially the same argument as part of a critique of William James’s theory of knowledge. Since Russell had already formulated the argument as part of his case against generally naturalistic, and specifically neutral monist, theories of (...) propositional attitudes, why did he think his own neutral monist theory of desire was exempt? I canvass various suggestions, but argue that none of them are effective. (shrink)
In this paper, I compare the original version of the enactive view—autopoietic enactivism—with Husserl’s phenomenology, regarding the issue of the relationship between consciousness and nature. I refer to this issue as the “problem of naturalism.” I show how the idea of the co-determination of subject and object of cognition, which is at the heart of autopoietic enactivism, is close to the phenomenological form of correlationism. However, I argue that there is a tension between an epistemological reading of the subject-object correlation (...) that renounces to search for its metaphysical ground, and the enactivist focus on the biological basis of cognition, which seems to imply a view of nature as the metaphysical ground of the conscious mind. A similar problem arises in Husserl’s phenomenology in the contrast between the idea of the fundamental subject-object correlation, the concept of nature as a correlate of transcendental constitution, and the investigation of the corporeal and material grounding of consciousness. I find a way out of this problem by drawing on the distinction between static and genetic phenomenology. I argue that the investigation of the temporality of experience in genetic phenomenology leads us to investigate the metaphysical ground of the subject-object correlation, understood dynamically as co-constitution and co-origination. Then I propose to complement phenomenology and enactivism with a form of neutralmonism, which conceives of the co-constitution of subject and object as grounded in a flow of fundamental, pre-phenomenal qualities. (shrink)
This paper, for two upcoming volumes, makes what I consider to be the definitive textual case for finally rejecting the phenomenalist interpretation of Ernst Mach's works, and his customary association with the Vienna Circle, in favor of a stronger realistic neutral monist reading connecting him to James, Russell and the American realist movement and today's neutralmonism (for example my 2014). I hope that this reading will eventually supplant the previously mistaken view of Mach's work and that (...) his views of science and philosophy of space and time can be revised as well. (shrink)
Standard views of personal identity over time often hover uneasily between the subjective, first-person dimension (e. g. psychological continuity), and the objective, third-person dimension (e. g. biological continuity) of a person’s life. Since both dimensions capture something integral to personal identity, we show that neither can successfully be discarded in favor of the other. The apparent need to reconcile subjectivity and objectivity, however, presents standard views with problems both in seeking an ontological footing of, as well as epistemic evidence for, (...) personal identity. We contend that a fresh look at neutralmonism offers a novel way to tackle these problems; counting on the most fundamental building blocks of reality to be ontologically neutral with regards to subjectivity and objectivity of personal identity. If the basic units of reality are, in fact, ontologically neutral – but can give rise to mental as well as physical events – these basic units of reality might account for both subjectivity and objectivity in personal identity. If this were true, it would turn out that subjectivity and objectivity are not conflictive dimensions of personal identity but rather two sides of the same coin. (shrink)
I shall here raise and attempt to answer -- given the constraints of space, rather dogmatically -- some fundamental questions as regards the fertile and far-reaching doctrine Ted Honderich has in the past called Consciousness as Existence.
The general problem as to the intrinsic nature of the states of consciousness is what these are in themselves, what intrinsic properties they have as the occurrences that they are. William James later holds them to be “pure experiences”; they are intrinsically neutral, not mental or physical, though they are commonly taken as such. This is part of a major ontological revision of James’s well-known earlier approach, since he now holds everything extant is pure experience. In “Does Consciousness Exist?” (...) — on which my article focuses — James applies his new approach to the topic of consciousness, and he proposes that this amounts to the function of knowing, which pure experiences instantiate with respect to other pure experiences, erroneously taking the latter to be as they are not: subjective or objective depending upon a context of associated experiences. Their intrinsic properties are held not to be mental or physical or any combination of such; and James seems to want to conceive of pure experiences as lacking in every property, except as they are interpreted at the moment, or in retrospect, in terms of a group of experiences to which they belong. James’s revised account of the states of consciousness is closely considered in the present article, his new account is contrasted with the one which he advocated in The Principles, and objections are here developed to the thesis that the states of consciousness are actually pure experiences. (shrink)
In recent decades, Russell’s “NeutralMonism” has reemerged as a topic of great scholarly interest among philosophers of mind, philosophers of science, and historians of early analytic philosophy. One of the most controversial points of scholarly dispute regarding Russell’s theory concerns how it best fits into standard classificatory schemes for understanding the relationship between mental phenomena and physical reality. The task of classifying Russell’s NeutralMonism is made all the more difficult by the fact that his (...) conception of it evolves in significant ways over the roughly four decades that he advocates it. In this paper, I contend that during this period, Russell holds (at least) three different, but related, ontological views, all of which he labels as “neutralmonism”. This paper begins by considering key aspects of Russell’s early dualism which continue to play important roles in his NeutralMonism, especially his views about acquaintance, knowledge by description, structuralism about physics, and the construction of our physical knowledge. I argue that Russell revises, rather than abandons, his notion of knowledge by acquaintance in 1918 (when he gives up the act-object distinction) and contend that his resulting “neutralmonism” remains a partial dualism until his 1921 The Analysis of Mind (hereafter AMi). Next, I explain how changes in physics leads Russell to re-conceptualize his NeutralMonism in The Analysis of Matter and An Outline of Philosophy, while challenging the relatively widespread view that his new position is a nonstandard version of physicalism. Finally, I argue that after 1940, Russell’s mature NeutralMonism—as presented in Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits, My Philosophical Development, and elsewhere—is very plausibly interpreted as a version of “Russellian Physicalism”. (shrink)
This paper provides an initial, multidimensional map of the complex relationships among consciousness, mind, brain, and the external world in a way that both follows the contours of everyday experience and the findings of science. It then demonstrates how this reflexive monist map can be used to evaluate the utility and resolve some of the oppositions of the many other 'isms' that currently populate consciousness studies. While no conventional, one-dimensional 'ism' such as physicalism can do justice to this web of (...) relationships, physicalism, functionalism, dualism, neutralmonism, and dual-aspect monism can all be seen to provide useful ways of understanding different aspects of the relationships among consciousness, mind, brain, and the external world when these are viewed in either a first- or a third-person way from within this web of relationships by sentient creatures such as ourselves. For example, physicalism and functionalism provide a useful understanding of consciousness, mind, brain, and the external world when viewed from a third-person perspective, while neutralmonism provides a useful way of understanding first- versus third-person views of external phenomena. On the other hand, dual-aspect monism provides a useful way of understanding first- versus third-person views of mind, including eastern versus western views of mind. Dual-aspect monism also provides a useful understanding of the 'unconscious ground of being' that gives rise to, supports, and embeds all these observable phenomena. For an integrated understanding one needs to understand how these phenomena and relationships combine into an integrated whole. (shrink)
Neutralmonism aims at solving the hard problem of consciousness by positing entities that are neither mental nor physical. Benovsky has recently argued for the slightly different account that, rather than being neutral, natural entities are both mental and physical by having different aspects, and then argued in favour of an anti-realist interpretation of those aspects. In this essay, operating under the assumption of dual-aspect monism, I argue to the contrary in favour of a realist interpretation (...) of these aspects by showing that the anti-realist interpretation collapses into neutralmonism and that the realist interpretation is an interesting alternative. I close with a discussion of the realist interpretation of the aspects and its relation with panpsychism. (shrink)