Speaker: Susan Schneider (University of Connecticut, Yale University, Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton)

Abstract: Fundamental physics (e.g., string theory, quantum mechanics) is highly mathematical. Mathematical entities purport to be abstract—they purport to be non-spatial, atemporal, immutable, acausal, and non-mental. (Whether they truly are abstract is a matter of debate, of course.) “Physicalism” (a doctrine in philosophy), to a first approximation, holds that everything is physical, or is composed of physical entities. As such, physicalism is a metaphysical hypothesis about the fundamental nature of reality. Given this, in this talk, I urge that it is reasonable to ask the physicalist to inquire into the nature of mathematical entities, for they are doing heavy lifting in the physicalist’s theory, describing and identifying the fundamental physical entities that everything that exists is said to reduce to. I then ask whether the physicalist has the resources to provide a satisfying account of the nature of these mathematical entities, given existing work in philosophy of mathematics she would likely draw from. And the answer will be: she does not. I then argue that this deflates the physicalist program: physicalism lacks the traditional advantages of being the most economical theory, and having a superior approach to causation, relative to certain competing theories. *My conclusion is that conscious awareness is not a physical phenomenon.*

Thursday, November 3, 12:30 p.m.
Institute for Advanced Study, 1 Einstein Drive, West Building Seminar Room, 2nd floor
Host by the Program in Interdisciplinary Studies