Consciousness and Fundamental Reality

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Oxford University Press, 2017 - Philosophy - 290 pages
A core philosophical project is the attempt to uncover the fundamental nature of reality, the limited set of facts upon which all other facts depend. Perhaps the most popular theory of fundamental reality in contemporary analytic philosophy is physicalism, the view that the world is fundamentally physical in nature. The first half of this book argues that physicalist views cannot account for the evident reality of conscious experience, and hence that physicalism cannot be true. Unusually for an opponent of physicalism, Goff argues that there are big problems with the most well-known arguments against physicalismChalmers' zombie conceivability argument and Jackson's knowledge argumentand proposes significant modifications.

The second half of the book explores and defends a recently rediscovered theory of fundamental realityor perhaps rather a grouping of such theoriesknown as 'Russellian monism.' Russellian monists draw inspiration from a couple of theses defended by Bertrand Russell in The Analysis of Matter in 1927. Russell argued that physics, for all its virtues, gives us a radically incomplete picture of the world. It tells us only about the extrinsic, mathematical features of material entities, and leaves us in the dark about their intrinsic nature, about how they are in and of themselves. Following Russell, Russellian monists suppose that it is this 'hidden' intrinsic nature of matter that explains human and animal consciousness.

Some Russellian monists adopt panpsychism, the view that the intrinsic natures of basic material entities involve consciousness; others hold that basic material entities are proto-conscious rather than conscious. Throughout the second half of the book various forms of Russellian monism are surveyed, and the key challenges facing it are discussed. The penultimate chapter defends a cosmopsychist form of Russellian monism, according to which all facts are grounded in facts about the conscious universe.


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God is One; God is Love... or the longer version "Every portion of matter may be conceived as like a garden full of plants and like a pond full of fish. But every branch of a plant, every member of an animal, and every drop of the fluids within it, is also such a garden or such a pond . . . There is, therefore, nothing uncultivated, or sterile or dead in the universe. - Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz" ~ "Consciousness preceded matter; all matter is thus consciousness experiencing itself. - Wald Wassermann" ~ "The Vedas exclaim from time immemorial, Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti, Existence is One, Sages call it by different Names. - Rig Veda, 1-164-146."  


1 The Reality of Consciousness
Part I Against Physicalism
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About the author (2017)

Philip Goff is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Central European University.

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