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Jan15-05, 12:16 PM
P: 1,499
Reading the beginning of the book there were one or two comments which caught my attention. It is probably not worth getting too deeply into the issues they raise until they reappear later and are covered in more detail, but these are just some first reactions.

"What ties the physical and nonphysical together is a deeper kind of thing of which they are both aspects."

This encouraged me to read the rest. The author suggests, or seems to suggest, that it is not correct to characterise what is fundamental to our existence as either physical or non-physical. This makes much sense to me. However it is not clear to me that he gets to grips with what it implies as the book unfolds. But then, quite a lot of his argument went over my head, so this discussion may help clarify this.

I was a little discouraged by this:

"Phenomenal consciousness is not necessarily consciousness of anything. For example, when I close my eyes I see diffuse shapes... These are experiences and thus elements of phenomenal consciousness, even though they do not represent anything."

I suppose this could be just a poorly chosen example, but it seems to me a mistake pure and simple. Consciousness of a diffuse shape is consciousness of something, whether it represents something else or not. Perhaps he sorts this out later, but I felt it to be an unfortunate comment coming so early in the book. I would argue that distinguishing between consciousness and its contents is of fundamental importance in any detailed discussion of it.

I am also worried, on the basis of the preface and Ch.I, that he is arguing for monism. This will come out in the wash, but if he is arguing for this then I feel he's flogging a dead horse. (Of course it's too early to start picking his ideas apart, but this is just first reactions.)

It worries me that his metaphysic is a little shaky when he says:

"Effective and causal properties must be carried by fundamental intrinsic properties."

What is an 'intrinsic property'? It seems to be an oxymoron. It simply begs the ontological question that he is purporting to answer to say that properties are epiphenomenal on properties and so on ad infinitum, with no ultimate 'thing' to underly them or have them. If he is suggesting this then we are back with the old problem of attributes and have not moved forward. But again, perhaps he sorts this out later. (Presumably his argument is that properties are dependent on his ultimate 'substance', which is neither physical nor non-physical.)

My metaphysical suspicions were also aroused by his question - "How can the world have both physical and phenomenal aspects?" The assumption built into this question, which is that what is physical is 'real' as opposed to phenomenal, needs some unpacking. Because he asks this question I wonder if he ever does this. We'll see.

That's about all I have to say about the beginning.