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The Side Left Untouched: Panpsychism, Embodiment, and the Explanatory Gap

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This paper considers Galen Strawson's recent defence of panpsychism. Strawson's account has a number of attractive features: it proffers an unflappable commitment to the reality of conscious experience, adduces a relatively novel and constructive appeal to the explanatory gap, and presents a picture which is in certain respects consistent with Herbert Feigl's version of mind-brain identity theory, what I call twofold-access theory. Strawson is right that the experiential and physical are not irreconcilable, for at least some physical phenomena have an intrinsic, experiential side. However, despite Strawson's suggestion to the contrary, Feigl distinguishes his view from panpsychism. In fact, twofold-access theory, as I construe it, does not so much imply a pan-psychism as a local- or neuropsychism: there are physical phenomena that are experiences, experiences only directly accessible to one when they are events in one's own brain and body. Strawson is also correct that there must be facts about the physical phenomena that constitute an experience that determine that it is the experiences it is -- or indeed any experience at all. Ultimately, however, Strawson fails to make the case that this relation of determination implies that physical ultimates are -- themselves -- subjects of experience. In fact, given what I call the Complex Subject Thesis, physical ultimates are the least likely candidates for being subjects of experience, for experience, I contend, is an embodied phenomenon.
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Document Type: Research Article

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Publication date: 2013-01-01

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