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Consciousness all the way down? An analysis of McGinn's critique of panexperientialism.

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Abstract:

This paper examines two objections by Colin McGinn to panexperientialist metaphysics as a solution to the mind-body problem. It begins by briefly stating how the ‘ontological problem’ of the mind-body relationship is central to the philosophy of mind, summarizes the difficulties with dualism and materialism, and outlines the main tenets of panexperientialism. Panexperientialists, such as David Ray Griffin, claim that theirs is one approach to solving the mind-body problem which does not get stuck in accounting for interaction (as in dualism) nor in the difficulties with emergentism and epiphenomenalism (as in materialism). McGinn attacks panexperientialism on two fronts: (1) the Whiteheadian distinction between ‘consciousness’ and ‘experience’ and the notion of consciousness emerging from ‘non-conscious experience'; and (2) the implicit ‘absurdities’ inherent in the notion of experience and self-agency in the fundamental particles of physics. Griffin's defence fails to satisfactorily address challenge (1); though a model is presented by the author which may offer panexperientialism a way out. McGinn's challenge (2) is an attempted reductio which Griffin rejects: that panexperientialism contradicts the evidence of modern quantum- relativistic physics. The author's analysis of the opposing positions shows that both philosophers are arguing from incompatible ‘geometries of discourse’ and radically inconsistent metaphysical assumptions. The paper concludes that a resolution of both the mind-body problem in general, and of the McGinn-Griffin dispute in particular, needs to involve an epistemological shift to include extra-rational ways of knowing.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Noetic Sciences, 475 Gate Five Road, Suite 300, Sausalito, CA 94965, USA.

Publication date: 1994-02-01

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