Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy 2023-24: Session 23

Consciousness and the Significance of Middle-Sized Things

Timothy O’Connor (Indiana University)


23 May 2024, 14:30 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão [C201.J] (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: Many physicalists suppose that middle-sized things of many kinds are real in an ontologically significant way that, e.g., mere aggregates are not. They have that status by being ‘weakly emergent’: emergent because they exhibit forms of behavior not characteristic of entities of which they are composed, while only weakly so because their existence and powers asymmetrically wholly depend on those composing entities. Ontological reductionists and nihilists charge that weak emergents (if such there be) are not ontologically significant because they do not make a fundamental difference to the way the world is or unfolds. I will argue that this charge is plausibly true in a world lacking strongly emergent conscious minds, but not otherwise. Weakly emergent entities enjoy a more robust ontological status by virtue of being objects of conscious practical and theoretical thought and action. Furthermore, the range of objects attaining such significance in a minded world depends on the kinds of minds in it: merely animal, human, and/or divine.