July 18, 2024
Neutral Monism and the Scientific Study of Consciousness by William Seager Abstract: A scientific theory of consciousness could be merely descriptive, nothing more than a kind of empirical, statistical phenomenology. We already have a lot of data which fit into this kind of modest theorizing. Better would be a theory which reveals the nature of consciousness. Here a famous gap looms between any such theory of consciousness and a theory of the conscious brain, neither of which are actually in our possession. The gap is so serious and so immense that it has led to remarkable responses, such as the illusionist view that consciousness does not exist. I think the gap suggests there are lurking assumptions about the nature of both consciousness and matter which are fundamentally at odds with one another. A ‘neutral monist’ view may be able to avoid these assumptions to find a place in nature for consciousness and scientific theorizing about it.