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Instructor: Thomas Hofweber. This course meets W 5:45 – 8:15 p.m. in CW 213 via face-to-face/hybrid instruction.

Title: The place of minds in the world

Abstract: The nowadays most common view about the metaphysical place of minds and the mental in the world is that they are a lucky bonus to the world, but not a central part of it. Minds arose out of complex arrangement of matter, but this didn’t have to happen and it has no other grand significance for the world: when one writes out the overall metaphysics of the world, minds will be mentioned as a specially puzzling occurrence, but minds will not have a central part in this metaphysics. In other words, the standard view is that minds are not metaphysically central in the world. This contrasts with numerous philosophical positions that have been defended in the history of philosophy that give minds a much more central role, and which are broadly in an idealist tradition. For these idealist views, minds are metaphysicslly central in one of several possible ways: either because the material world is itself mental, or is somehow structured by minds, or somehow constrained by minds, or somehow guided by minds, etc.. Although idealism is nowadays considered a position of mostly historical interest, it has become clear in recent debates in metaphysics that there are a number of ways in which a broadly idealist position could be formulated and defended. This course will discuss several such options, including my defense of one of them.

A good part of the reading for this course will be chapters from my work in progress book manuscript Idealism and Harmony of Thought and Reality, which is under contract with OUP. This book surveys several ways in which minds might be metaphysically central to the world, and several ways in which large-scale features of the world are mind-dependent in some specified sense of dependence. The first part of the book surveys and criticizes several ways to defend the centrality of minds, the second part formulates and defends a new form of idealism. The positive proposal holds that not just minds in general, but human minds in particular, are metaphysically central to the world. An outline of the positive proposal can be found in a recent article of mine, which can be found here: (in case you would like to have a look).

We will start by reading articles by authors whose ideas can be used to defend a particular version of the metaphysical centrality of minds, which will include Michael Pelczar on phenomenalism, Iris Einheuser on conventionalism, Kit Fine on fragmentalism, Anton Friedrich Koch on the subjectivity thesis, Shamik Dasgupta on grounding and its use in formulating philosophical theses, as well as others, together with parts from my book manuscript criticizing these proposals. Then we will read several chapters of my manuscript that aim to formulate and defend a particular version of idealism, and what follows from it.

Despite its high course number, this class does not really have any prerequisites.

This course is open to all grad students.


PHIL graduate students: Please refer to our Handbook (page 6, #9) for information regarding distribution requirements.

Permission of the instructor is required to enroll in this course. PHIL grad students are exempt from this enrollment requirement.