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Biological Theory

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Consciousness, Information theory, Materialism, Mind and body, Reductionism, Subjectivity, Systems theory


A partial review of Thomas Nagel's book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist NeoDarwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False is used to articulate some systems-theoretic ideas about the challenge of understanding subjective experience. The article accepts Nagel' s view that reductionist materialism fails as an approach to this challenge, but argues that seeking an explanation of mind based on emergence is more plausible than one based on panpsychism, which Nagel favors. However, the article proposes something similar to Nagel's neutral monism by positing a hierarchy of information processes that span the domains of matter, life, and mind. As depicted in this hierarchy, subjective experience is emergent, but also continuous with informational phenomena at lower levels.


Author's version of an paper that was subsequently published in Biological Theory, and can be found at DOI:

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This paper is an updated and expanded version of a conference presentation given at the 65th Annual Northwest Philosophy Conference, Pacific University, Oct. 4-5, 2013.



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