April 25-30, 2016 - Tucson

Pre-Conference Workshop

Monday, April 25, 2 pm to 6 pm


Naturalizing the Conscious Mind?

Alternatives to Physicalism and Their Implications

As physicalism has failed not only the ‘hard problem’, but also its neural correlates, there is renewed interest in non-physicalist approaches to ‘naturalize’ the mind. These include neutral monism, dual-aspect monism and panpsychism, as well as first-person and ‘embodied’ techniques, and concepts from quantum theory that may unify phenomenological, cognitive, neural and information-theoretic accounts of conscious experience. Physicist Harald Atmanspacher will discuss mind-matter relations from interdisciplinary perspectives, with particular reference to quantum cognition. Philosophers Philip Goff will defend Russellian monism and panpsychism, including its ‘combination problem, William Seager will also defend the panpsychist notion that mind is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of the world, and Michael Silberstein will link monism and emergence theory. 

Organizer: Harald Atmanspacher (in cooperation with the Society for Mind-Matter Research)



Topic Description


There is now a growing consensus among philosophers of mind and researchers in consciousness studies and the foundations of cognitive science that physicalism generally, and mind-to-brain reduction in particular, may be too narrow as a basis for understanding phenomenal experience. On the philosophical side this change is largely the result of the failure of physicalism to convincingly discharge the hard problem of consciousness. On the scientific side, it is the lack of progress toward a sound understanding of the neural correlates of phenomenal experience.

The evidence for this sea change is all around. First, there is a renewed interest in the previously moribund neutral monism, dual-aspect monism and panpsychism. Second, there is renewed interest in the phenomenological tradition (and first-person techniques more generally) within both philosophy and science. Third, even highly regarded neuroscientists are starting to take seriously accounts of conscious experience that strongly suggest panpsychism and dual-aspect frameworks of thinking. Fourth there is an explosion of activity in embodied and extended cognition with its non-brain centric focus on ecological, dynamical and enactive accounts of psychology. Fifth, an increasing number of cognitive scientists are taking seriously modeling techniques deriving from concepts of quantum theory that may allow us to unify phenomenological, cognitive, neural and information-theoretic accounts of conscious experience.

The purpose of this pre-conference workshop is to explore the aforementioned alternatives to physicalism and the concomitant new developments in cognitive science and psychology, and to discuss possible future directions and applications in both philosophy and science.




The workshop will feature four speakers who explore different and often competing accounts of these new developments:  

Harald Atmanspacher, Hedda Hassel Mørch, William Seager, and Michael Silberstein.  Each presentation will be 30 minutes, followed by questions from and discussion with attendees. At the end of the session all speakers will form a joint panel to consider questions of more general scope.




Harald Atmanspacher (PhD in physics) is an associate fellow and staff member at Collegium Helveticum since 2007. Earlier positions were at the MPI for extraterrestrial Physics at Garching (1985-1998) and at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology at Freiburg (1998-2013). He is president of the Society for Mind-Matter Research and editor-in-chief of the interdisciplinary international journal Mind and Matter. His fields of research are the theory of nonlinear dynamical systems and complex systems, conceptual and theoretical aspects of (algebraic) quantum theory, and mind-matter relations from interdisciplinary perspectives. 


Hedda Hassel Mørch is a post-doc at Center for Mind, Brain and Consciousness at NYU and University of Oslo. Her main research interests are panpsychism, the mind-body problem, the history of panpsychism, and causation. In her PhD thesis (University of Oslo 2014) she developed a new argument for panpsychism and a solution to the combination problem based on considerations within the metaphysics of causation. Her current research project focuses on Tononi's Integrated Information Theory as it relates to panpsychism.



William Seager is professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Besides a number of special topics in the philosophy of science and the philosophy of mind, he is particularly interested in metaphysical questions pertaining to these fields. His work on approaches to consciousness includes the radical idea that mind is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of the world, known as panpsychism. He was Associate Editor of the Canadian Journal of Philosophy 2003-2013. His most recent book is Natural Fabrications: Science, Emergence and Consciousness, Springer 2012.



Michael Silberstein is professor of philosophy, director of the Cognitive Science program at Elizabethtown College and permanent Adjunct in the Philosophy Department at the University of Maryland, College Park where he is also a faculty member in the Foundations of Physics Program and a Fellow on the Committee for Philosophy and the Sciences.  His primary research interests are consciousness studies, foundations of physics, foundations of cognitive science and foundations of complexity theory respectively.  He has written extensively on emergence and recently on neutral monism and phenomenal experience in ecology psychology, enactivism and phenomenology. He is guest editor of a special issue on consciousness and extended mind in the Journal of Consciousness Studies in 2015.




Early Workshop Fees:

TSC Student Registrants                $40 half day

TSC General Registrants                $60 half day

General Public - Student - Workshop only $75 half day

General Public - Workshop only  $125 half day