A five-week seminar for sixteen higher education faculty to engage with topics in metaphysics and philosophy of mind.
John Heil, professor of philosophy at Washington University, directs a seminar on the myriad interrelated issues in fundamental metaphysics that bear on questions arising in, or have implications for, the field of philosophy of mind. Heil argues: "Most of the really deep philosophical questions about the mind are, whether we like it or not, metaphysical questions: philosophy of mind is in this regard metaphysics applied in a particular domain." He further comments: "Before you can hope to answer questions about the status of consciousness or mind-body interaction, you need at least to have a sense of the space of possible answers." Too often, according to Heil, "metaphysical topics are addressed piecemeal," and "particular metaphysical theses" are "promoted as solutions to one or another immediately pressing problem." What is called for, Heil contends, "is not an examination of one or another element of the picture in isolation from all the other elements, but a closer look at the whole picture." To that end, the seminar equips the participants with the requisite resources to grapple with the intertwining issues of the nature of causation; substances; ontological reduction; emergence; and panpsychism, the relation of fundamental physics to the special sciences, including neuroscience and psychology; multiple realizability; and the place of qualities in the natural order, among other topics. The object of the seminar is not to promote any metaphysical doctrine but to make participants aware of "the extent to which unexamined metaphysical allegiances might be coloring their own thinking concerning minds and their place in the universe." Readings include David Armstrong, Universals; Galen Strawson, Real Materialism and Other Essays; Sidney Shoemaker, Realization; Phil Dowe, Physical Causation; Brian Mclaughlin and Jonathan Cohen (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind; E.J. Lowe, Personal Agency; C.B. Martin, The Mind in Nature; and John Heil, The Universe as We Find It. Three notable philosophers, E.J. Lowe (University of Durham), Alyssa Ney (University of Rochester), and Galen Strawson (University of Reading) have been invited to visit the seminar and to discuss their work with the participants.