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Public Defence of Damian Aleksiev on Explanatory Gaps against Physicalism and Panpsychism

Thursday, June 17, 2021, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm

The Department of Philosophy cordially invites you to the Public Defense of the PhD Dissertation 


Damian Aleksiev

(PhD candidate, Department of Philosophy)


Explanatory Gaps against Physicalism and Panpsychism


Members of the Defense Committee:

Supervisor: Tim Crane (CEU)
Associate supervisor: Philip Goff (Durham University)
External member: 
Hedda Hassel Mørch (Inland Norway University)
Internal member: Howard Robinson (CEU)

Chair: Michael Griffin (CEU)


How does consciousness fit within the physical world? I examine—and ultimately reject—two metaphysical theories with different answers to this question. The first theory is physicalism. It posits that the world is fundamentally only physical. The second theory is panpsychism. It posits that the physical world is fundamentally only conscious. I argue that both physicalism and panpsychism are false. Physicalism faces an explanatory gap between physical reality and human consciousness. Panpsychism faces an under-discussed explanatory gap between consciousness and the structure of physical reality. I conclude that physicalism cannot metaphysically explain human consciousness, while panpsychism cannot metaphysically explain the structure of physical reality.

The conclusion of my thesis is not entirely negative. I argue that although neither physicalism nor panpsychism can solve the problem of consciousness, the Russellian framework used by many panpsychists should not be rejected. I suggest that the Russellian framework, in conjunction with a non-panpsychist theory of fundamental reality, could be the way forward in solving the problem of consciousness.

In Chapter 1, I introduce the problem of consciousness and the metaphysical terminology I use throughout the thesis. In Chapter 2, I argue against physicalists who employ the ‘phenomenal concepts strategy.’ I show that the phenomenal concepts strategy rests on implausible assumptions about the nature of phenomenal concepts. In Chapter 3, I argue against Jonathan Schaffer’s ground functionalism. I show that human consciousness remains especially puzzling even if exploratory gaps are abundant. In Chapter 4, I argue against panpsychism. I show that the physical structure of spacetime would lack a metaphysical explanation if panpsychism were true. Finally, in Chapter 5, I evaluate several other theories of consciousness and speculate which one of them is the most promising.


Topic: Damian Alksiev Public Defense of the PhD Dissertation
Time: Jun 17, 2021 11:00 AM Budapest
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Meeting ID: 973 9832 0396
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