MA Thesis

Below are summaries of the chapters of my MA thesis. The goals of this thesis are twofold. First, in the first two chapter, I seek to show that of the main anti-physicalist positions, Russellian monism is the strongest and most worth pursuing. In the third chapter, I defend constitutive Russellian monism against Philip Goff's argument for cosmopsychism. For drafts, feel free to contact me at

Chapter 1

Two of the most popular anti-physicalist theories of mind are emergentism and Russellian monism. Traditionally, emergence theorists have accepted that mental causes overdetermine their effects, but others are reluctant to accept such rampant overdetermination in nature. As such, this move has typically been seen as unattractive. I suggest that emergence theorists accept Karen Bennett’s compatibilist solution to the exclusion problem. However, while I think the compatibilist response is a better option for the emergentist, I argue that it is still problematic. Specifically, the emergentist is unable to give a satisfying answer to what I call the opacity question or "in cases of mental-physical overdetermination, what difference does the mental cause make?" As such, the emergentist is left with a dilemma: either accept the traditional strategy (which results in rampant overdetermination) or accept the compatibilist strategy (which renders the mental's contribution mysterious).

Chapter 2

In this chapter, I argue that Russellian monism is not subject to similar worries about mental causation, specifically with regard to the opacity question. Further, I investigate how the Russellian monist's conceptualization of matter might change the way we think of the exclusion problem.

Chapter 3

Philip Goff argues that if we accept phenomenal transparency, then we cannot be constitutive panpsychists, due to an intractable form of the combination problem. Phenomenal transparency is the position that phenomenal concepts reveal the nature (or essence) of the conscious states they refer to in such a way that someone possessing that concept could understand a priori what it would be for that entity to be part of reality. If the full nature of being a subject is revealed through it being a transparent concept, then, Goff argues, the nature of how subjects could combine should be revealed as well. However, the idea of subjects combining is mysterious. Therefore, one must either give up phenomenal transparency (which would undermine the motivation for an anti-physicalist project) or constitutive panpsychism. If we reject constitutive panpsychism, then our available alternatives are cosmopsychism (the conjunction of Russellian monism and priority monism) or emergent panpsychism.

While I am attracted to panpsychism, I am not attracted to cosmopsychism or emergent panpsychism. As such, I aim to defend constitutive panpsychism by arguing that phenomenal concepts are not transparent, but are merely translucent. A concept is translucent if only part of its nature is revealed to the concept user in a transparent way. If the concept of subjecthood is translucent, then there is no problem with our not being able to understand a priori how subjects could combine. I attempt to motivate phenomenal translucency in two ways.

First, I draw on Derk Pereboom’s qualitative inaccuracy hypothesis (QIH). QIH states that when we introspect on our mental states, we represent them as having qualitative natures that they don’t in fact have. Pereboom uses QIH to defend an eliminativism about qualitative natures. While I don’t think Pereboom is successful in using QIH to this end, I do think his observation that we can be mistaken about our qualitative experiences reveals that our phenomenal concepts are not transparent, nor are they opaque, but translucent.

Second, I argue that panpsychists, especially Russellian monists, should be naturally skeptical of something like phenomenal transparency. Even if one grants that a user of the concept “pain” can determine a priori what it would be for the what-it-is-like aspect of pain to be part of reality, the panpsychist is committed to that pain being grounded in or identical to some categorical properties and it is not clear that the existence of those categorical properties can be discovered a priori. This problem for phenomenal transparency becomes worse if one is an emergent panpsychist, as pain in subjects like humans would be the result of some emergence relation which grounds the phenomenal experience. Again, it is not clear that the existence of such an emergence relation can be discovered a priori.