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Mind: A Property of Matter

Rowlatt, PA; (2017) Mind: A Property of Matter. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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There are three broad possibilities regarding the basic ontology of mind. It could be a property of matter that reduces to the properties that are studied in physics. It could be a property of matter different from those that are studied in physics. It could be nothing to do with matter. The second of these, known in the literature as non-reductive physicalism, is generally considered by philosophers in limited form with mental states, albeit nonreducible, fully determined by other properties of matter (taken to be ‘emergent from’, and ‘supervening on’, the properties of matter studied in physics). My thesis puts the case for the ontological status of mind being similar to that of the other properties of matter, those studied in physics. The approach lends itself to the proposition that mental states can be causally effective per se, since that is the case for the other properties of matter. This proposition runs counter to the usual assumption in the philosophy literature relating to mental causation known as “the completeness of physics”, which requires that all physical events are fully caused by purely physical (non-mental) prior histories. However, theoretical physicists often propose new phenomena for a variety of reasons. There is a lot in favour of this approach. None of the three anti-physicalist arguments (the knowledge argument, the conceivability argument and the hard problem) cause it difficulties. Effective mental causation means that the reason why creatures with consciousness abound in our world could be that consciousness enables effective decisiontaking and so has been selected for by the pressures of survival. Effective mental causation would also explain why people feel as if they have freedom of the will: if mental states are causally effective there would be a sense in which people do have free will.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Mind: A Property of Matter
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1569206
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