Saturday, December 19, 2009

Strawson on Nietzsche's Metaphysics

Galen Strawson has delivered what looks like a very interesting paper on Nietzsche's Metaphysics at the recent Nietzsche on Mind and Nature conference. Here is an abstract of his presentation:

"Consider ten claims.
[1] There is no persisting and unitary self.
[2] There is no fundamental (real) distinction between objects on the one hand and their properties on the other.
[3] There is no fundamental (real) distinction between the base/categorical properties of things and the dispositional/power properties of things.
[4] There is no fundamental (real) distinction between objects or substances on the one hand and processes and events on the other.
[5] There is no fundamental (real) distinction between causes and effects.
[6] It is incorrect to say that objects are ‘governed’ by laws of nature.
[7] There is no free will.
[8] Determinism is true.
[9] Reality is one.
[10] The fundamental stuff of reality is suffused with—if it does not consist of—mentality in some form.

I’ll argue that Nietzsche’s mature position certainly includes [1]-[7], and also [8], properly understood, and probably or very probably [9] and [10]. I take it that [1] and [7] are clearly true, in the sense in which Nietzsche intends them, and I’ll argue that [2]-[6] are also true, and that [8]-[10] are also probably or very probably true. I take the claim that [1]-[10] are either certainly true or probably true to be powerful support for the view that Nietzsche held them."

There is a short review of Strawson's presentation on this blog.

Here are some previous posts of mine relating to panexperientialism and the work of Strawson or Nietzsche which might be of interest (most recent post listed first):

Nietzsche's naturalism - considers Brian Leiter's criticisms of a metaphysical interpretation of the Will to Power.

Property Dualism - micro, macro and mystery : discusses whether, if experience is taken to be a fundamental natural property, this fundamentality is best explained at the level of human consciousness or at the level of nature's most basic physical constituents.

The Will to Power, life and parsimony: considers whether Nietzsche unnecessarily invokes a ’vitalistic’ principle into biology which undermines his doctrine of the Will to Power and renders it unparsimonious.

Strawson reviews: reviews of Strawson's Consciousness and its Place in Nature.

Implausibility and Irrelevance - considers Nagasawa’s metaphysical argument against Strawson that panexperientialism is implausible or is irrelevant to the problem of consciousness.

Experience and the subject - discusses Strawson's views on experience, the subject of the experience and the content of the experience.

Bridging the gap: critique of an argument against Strawson that even in a best-case scenario―in which the phenomenal properties of the ultimates are known in complete detail―panpsychism still wouldn’t help us with the mind/body problem.

From fundamentality to ubiquity: Considers whether, if it is true that experience cannot emerge (in the sense described by Strawson) from the non-experiential, then it follows from this that some ultimates must be experiential.

Strawson on physicalism and panspychism - abstract of Strawson's argument for panpsychism.

Update Feb 2010:

Video and podcast of Strawson's talk is available here. Well worth a listen, though not much on proposition 10 (re panexperientialism) and I found it heavy going at times.

I quite liked the reference at 1:25 to "the most plausible, though difficult, view of the nature of reality ... the really hard nosed monist view, which is the Spinozian, Hegelian, Russellian, Eddingtonian and Whiteheadian view that reality is suffused with, even if it doesn't consist of, mentality in some form or sense". free web page counters


Steve said...

I have been reading Spinoza and that would be a plausible summary of his metaphysics, too, I think. Interesting.

Justin said...

Hi Steve.
That is interesting - I've never considered a comparison of Nietzsche and Spinoza, but there could be some strong parallels there.
Hopefully Strawson will put the full paper on his website in due course.
(PS hope my name change hasn't caused confusion!)

Steve said...

No confusion: I thought it was unlikely there would be two different dudes posting here on Neitzsche's metaphysics!

Rob said...

Strawson's acute presentation is now available. Note that the video, but not the audio, cuts off prematurely.

Justin said...

Thanks for the link Rob, I'll have a listen.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Monte Alpaca here,
To Strawson a scientist might simply say that there is no difference between what gives rise to the mental (i.e. the physical)
because the mental is simply the physical and so there is no difference. Now, this is a kind of scientific hiding the head in the sand--avoiding the issue created by the mind/body split--which they
apparently do accept --but then don't know how to deal with it.
But in reducing the mental to the physical--scientists are inadvertantly saying that mental is physical and physical is mental.
They mean reductionism that ignores the difference between mental and physical or submerges or subordinates mental to physical--but I see it differently. I see it as a tacit admission by science that mental and physical are in some sense the same. It could be that there is one reality, one substance if you like, and it manifests as a continuum from tactile to smell and color to thought and memory and so on--a whole bunch of things.
The presumption of science is that the physical is the base--but it has inadvertently opened the door to the mental being the base and giving birth to the physical as much as the physical gives birth to the mental. In this mental and physical become two points of view
of a larger phenomenon. phenomenon. And beyond these is the one substance
giving birth to them both. The search for that substance or category of being--may form the science of the future (ok, yes this is very speculative--but I gotta have -some- fun!)
The vision entails that the physical and the mental are made of the same stuff---but differ in quality.
But really, it is paradoxical to say that there are two things; mental and physical and they are separate. I mean geez, one can easily consider the physical world a mental construction---as well as holding the mental world comes from the brain.Any clear boundary between mental and physical is arbitrary at best.

If I knock your head hard enough--
nothing will arise in your brain---
the mental content halts for a time------(presumably). And so surely the mind is physical--so the scientists would say.
But again, the world could be made of something that is neither mental nor physical, that gives rise to many variations in form, including the situation wherein I knock you on the head and conclude
that mental is physical, as well as point of view wherein the mental gives rise to the physical.
(Or we could harken back to Bishop Berkeley: only minds and God exist.)
The problem at base of all this mental gyration of course is the presumption of the mind body split. Look, the same Cartesian paradox holds today as it did 400 years ago: If mental and physical are so different from each other then how could they interact at all? The unsatisfactory solution is that God
coordinates the separate mental and the physical so that, for instance, when there is the thought "I want to get up and eat breakfast"--the body does get up!
It's magic! But the whole scheme is awkward and cumbersome and paradoxical. Any clear boundary between mental and physical is arbitrary at best.
The whole scheme needs to be seen as just two different points of view---that have their place in a wider, much wider world.
The wider world, I posit, is being--with all considered arising from that, including some kind of substance that makes up the world including-- mental and physical points of view and so on.
After all, what is the world? The world is whatever shows up!
What else could it be?

Justin said...

I tend to agree with you what your saying Monte- thanks for your thoughts.

John Gregg said...

Joachim -

I really like how concisely and clearly you worded #10:

[10] The fundamental stuff of reality is suffused with—if it does not consist of—mentality in some form.

Up to now, my favorite statement of panpsychism involves a paraphrase of Chalmers, where he talks about the "fundamental furniture of the universe, along with mass, charge, and spin." Is that your own paraphrase of Strawson, or is that his, verbatim? I'd like to swipe it for my list of bumper sticker aphorisms (, but I'd like to give proper attribution.


Justin said...

Hi John
They're Strawson's pithy words.
I like your aphorism hits - a lot of food for thought there

smplcv said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liberation said...

Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day.