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The Subject of Experiences: The Significance of its Metaphysical Nature in the Philosophy of Mind

English title The Subject of Experiences: The Significance of its Metaphysical Nature in the Philosophy of Mind
Applicant Nida-Rümelin Martine
Number 189031
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Departement für Philosophie Philosophische Fakultät Universität Freiburg
Institution of higher education University of Fribourg - FR
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.12.2019 - 30.11.2023
Approved amount 881'780.00
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Keywords (10)

philosophy of mind; embodiment; unity of consciousness; self-awareness; metaphysics of the subject; emergence; substance; phenomenal consciousness; conscious perspective; subject of experience

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Ce projet explore la nature métaphysique des sujets conscients sous cinq aspects majeurs: leur catégorie ontologique, leur essence, la nature de l'incarnation, la perspective à la première personne et l'unité de la conscience.
Lay summary

Ce projet se concentrera sur la métaphysique des sujets d’expériences, c'est-à-dire sur la nature des entités qui peuvent avoir des expériences conscientes (incluant les animaux conscients ainsi que les humains). Une attention croissante a été accordée aux différentes questions relatives à ce sujet ces dernières années, mais à ce jour aucune étude systématique n’a montré comment ces questions sont liées et comment elles peuvent être intégrées dans une conception substantielle de la nature du sujet. Pour combler cette lacune, nous allons proposer l'hypothèse suivante: chaque sujet est une substance, distincte de son corps mais nécessairement incarnée, et chaque sujet est essentiellement un sujet. Nous allons fournir de nouveaux arguments pour défendre cette conception, et également montrer comment elle peut être la source de nouvelles compréhensions de ce que c’est pour un sujet d’être incarné, d’avoir une perspective sur le monde, et que ses expériences soient unifiées. Cette conception promet donc de fournir une théorie métaphysique complète et unifiée du sujet, qui aura des ramifications importantes pour d’autres problèmes relevant de la philosophie de l’esprit.

Au cours de nos travaux, nous répondrons aux questions de recherche suivantes:
1. A quelle catégorie ontologique le sujet d'expériences appartient-il ? Par exemple, est-ce une substance, un ‘paquet’ d'expériences, un ensemble de capacités mentales, etc. ?
2. Les entités qui sont des sujets sont-elles essentiellement des sujets ?
3. Quelle est la nature métaphysique de l’incarnation ?
4. Quelle est la nature de la perspective à la première personne du sujet ?
5. Quelle est la relation métaphysique entre le sujet d’expériences et l'unité de ses expériences ?
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 04.12.2019

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
166320 Phenomenal Consciousness and Self-Awareness 01.12.2016 Project funding (Div. I-III)
132455 Philosophy and Phenomenology of Agency 01.10.2010 ProDoc
118610 First person access, phenomenal reflection and phenomenal concepts 01.06.2008 ProDoc

Abstract

This project will focus on the metaphysics of the subject of experiences, that is, on the nature of entities which can have experiences (including conscious animals as well as humans). There has been increasing attention paid to different issues relevant to this topic in recent years, but as of yet there has been no systematic study showing how these issues are interrelated and how they can be integrated into a substantive account of the nature of the subject. To fill this gap, we shall propose the following hypothesis: each subject is a substance, distinct from its body but necessarily embodied, and it is essentially a subject. We shall provide new arguments in defence of this conception, and also show how it can provide novel accounts of what it is for a subject to be embodied, to have a perspective on the word, and for its experiences to be unified. This conception, therefore, promises to provide a comprehensive and unified metaphysical account of the subject, which will have important ramifications for other issues in the philosophy of mind. In the course of our work we shall address the following Research Questions: RQ1. To which ontological category does the subject of experience belong, e.g., is it a substance, a bundle of experiences, a collection of mental capacities, etc?RQ2. Are the entities which are subjects essentially subjects?RQ3. What is the metaphysical nature of embodiment, i.e., what is it, metaphysically speaking, for a subject to be embodied?RQ4. What is the nature of the subject’s first-person perspective?RQ5. What is the metaphysical relation between the subject of experiences and the unity of experiences? Investigating each of these questions is crucial providing an overall metaphysical account of the nature of the subject. The view we propose can only hold together if all five are discussed in detail.The hypotheses we wish to defend regarding the research questions are as follows: the subject is a substance (RQ1) and each subject is essentially a subject (RQ2). A subject can be embodied to different degrees, and this can be accounted for on a view which takes each subject to be an emergent individual (RQ3). We shall distinguish several different senses in which a subject has a perspective and investigate their interrelation; for instance, we shall suggest that the sense of being located at a specific point in space and time requires having a unique perspective on one’s own experiences in a way which does not allow for reduction in, e.g., functional terms (RQ4). A subject’s experiences are unified in a significant way simply by belonging to that subject, and this unity cannot be reductively explained (RQ5).
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