Consciousness and Structural Realism

April 29, 2013
University of Liverpool

The Arts Library, School of the Arts (1st floor)
19 Abercromby Square
United Kingdom


  • British Society for the Philosophy of Science

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On Monday 29th April the University of Liverpool will host a workshop on 'Consciousness and Structural Realism', sponsored by the British Society for the Philosophy of Science. The aim of this workshop is to promote interaction between philosophers of science working on structural realism and philosophers of mind working on Russellian monism (more information below).


David Papineau (King’s College London), Sam Coleman (University of Hertfordshire), Paul Coates (University of Hertfordshire), Eleanor Nox (King’s College London), Alistair Wilson (University of Birmingham).

All welcome and no fee, but please email to let me know if you want to come so we can make sure we have enough biscuits:

Time: 10:00-18:00


10:00-10:30 Philip Goff (University of Liverpool): Setting up the issues.

10:30-11:30 Eleanor Knox (King's College London) ‘Lessons from Spacetime Structuralism’

11:30-11:45 Tea

11:45-12:45 Sam Coleman (University of Hertfordshire) ‘The World Inside’

12:45-1:45 Lunch

1:45-2:45 David Papineau (King’s College London) ‘Aren't we all Russellian monists and structural realists?’

2:45-3:45 Alistair Wilson (University of Birmingham) 'Quidditism, Structural Realism, and Modal Methodology’

3:45-4:00 Tea

4:00-5:00 Paul Coates (University of Hertfordshire) 'Perception, Phenomenology, and Structural Realism’

5:00-6:00 General discussion

Consciousness and Structural Realism

The aim of this workshop is to explore connections between structural realism in the philosophy of science, and Russellian monism in the philosophy of mind. Structural realism, the view we should commit only to the mathematical or structural content of our best scientific theories, is widely held to be the best option for scientific realists. Russellian monism is an increasingly popular way of accommodating consciousness in a naturalistic world view. Both views have in common the thesis that science provides us only with a description of the structure of the natural world. The Russellian monist holds that the categorical base of the structure described by science is experience or proto-experience. Structural realism comes in two forms. Epistemic structural realists take the categorical base of the structure described by science to be empirically unknowable, whilst ontic structural realists deny the existence of such a categorical base, taking reality to be entirely constituted of structure.

There seem to be the following connections between the two views:

A.      Russellian monism and epistemic structural realism are on the face of it compatible, and may perhaps be mutually reinforcing.

B.      Russellian monism and ontic structural realism are inconsistent, and hence arguments in favour of the one will give us reason to doubt the other.

The aim of the conference is (i) to explore the dialectical significance of these two connections, (ii) to reflect on whether there are any other philosophically significant connections between the two views. There has so far been very little interaction between philosophers of science working on structural realism and philosophers of mind working on Russellian monism, so I believe this to be an untapped source of fruitful research.


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