Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

Breadcrumb Navigation


Workshop “Physicalism, Agency, and Consciousness”



Time                Event
09:30 - 10:30 Christian List (LMU), "Welcome & The First-Person Argument against Physicalism”
10:45 - 11:45 Katalin Balog (Rutgers), “Illusionism and Consciousness”
12:00 - 13:00 Robert Prentner (LMU), “A Process Model of Phenomenology”
Lunch break
14:30 - 15:30 Kristina Musholt (Leipzig), “Mindshaping and Agency”
15:45 - 16:45 Vanessa Carr (LMU), “The Long and the Short of it: Accounting for Complexity in Action Individuation”
17:00 - 18:00 Barry Loewer (Rutgers), “The Consequence Argument Meets the Mentaculus”


Prof. Dr. Christian List
Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy
LMU Munich


To register, please email

Please include your affiliation in the registration email and indicate whether you would like to participate in person or online.


Katalin Balog, “Illusionism and Consciousness”

This paper is about “strong illusionism”, the view that we are not conscious at all, that there is nothing it is like, in the usual sense of those words, to feel sad, or to smell lavender. I argue against this view on a priori grounds; I also rebut the main philosophical arguments marshalled in its defense. And finally, I argue that illusionism doesn’t only pose a theoretical problem; it is practically problematic as well since it undermines the moral concerns of its adherents. Therefore one should resist illusionism not only in academia but in the wider culture.

Vanessa Carr, “The Long and the Short of it: Accounting for Complexity in Action Individuation”

Debate on how to individuate actions has often focused on whether or not to accept a simple means-end identity thesis: if an agent did one thing, φ-ing, by means of doing something else, ψ-ing, then there was a single action, describable both as a φ-ing and as a ψ-ing. And it seems generally to have been assumed that any problem that is fatal for the simple means-end identity rules out any kind of means-end identity thesis. I oppose this assumption. I argue that, if we acknowledge the variety of complex teleological structures that our actions may contain, we see that, while a simple means-end identity thesis is not viable, a more sophisticated means-end identity thesis is viable. Moreover, a more sophisticated means-end identity thesis becomes quite attractive when we recognise that we often do a lot more for the sake of our ends than is suggested by the standard examples given in the action individuation literature. How much we do for the sake of our ends crucially depends on our confidence in our ability to do more.

Christian List, “The First-Personal Argument against Physicalism”

The aim of this talk is to discuss a seemingly straightforward argument against physicalism which, despite being implicit in much of the philosophical debate about consciousness, has not received as much attention as it deserves (compared to other, better-known “epistemic”, “modal”, and “conceivability” arguments). This is the argument from the non-supervenience of the first-personal (and indexical) facts on the third-personal (and non-indexical) ones. This non-supervenience, together with the assumption that the physical facts (at least as conventionally construed) are third-personal, entails that some facts (namely, first-personal, phenomenal ones) do not supervene on the physical facts. Interestingly, unlike other arguments against physicalism, the first-personal argument, if successful, refutes not only physicalism but also other purely third-personal metaphysical pictures.

Barry Loewer, “The Consequence Argument Meets the Mentaculus”

The “Consequence Argument” has spawned an enormous literature in response. The most notable of these is David Lewis’ which is based on his account of counterfactuals. My reason for adding to this literature is that I show that while Lewis’ diagnosis of the argument is on the right track, the account of counterfactuals he relies on to rebut the argument is defective and consequently, he rejects the wrong premise of the argument. I will develop a response that is in some ways similar to Lewis’ but relies on a different and better account of counterfactuals based on an approach to statistical mechanics that goes back to Boltzmann and has more recently been developed by David Albert in his book, Time and Chance. This account, which is called “the Mentaculus,” provides a framework for explaining and connecting the various so called “arrows of time,” including those of thermodynamics, causation, knowledge, and influence. It is the last of these arrows that is key to my response to the Consequence Argument. If my response is effective, then it will turn out that physics (together with some philosophy), rather than conflicting with freedom, is able to rescue it, at least, from the Consequence Argument.

Kristina Musholt, “Mindshaping and Agency”

While the contrast between first- and third-personal accounts of conscious experience is often taken to be one of the most difficult problems for theories of consciousness, the focus of my talk will lie on the second-person perspective. The central claim of the mindshaping theory is that folk-psychological agents are made rather than discovered (e.g., Mameli 2001; McGeer 2007, 2021; Zawidzki 2013). That is to say, our behaviour and, crucially, our minds are shaped at different levels by a myriad of types of social interaction and, contra classical theories of social cognition, mental state attributions serve a primarily regulatory rather than an explanatory or predictive function. In this view, we are second persons before we become first persons. The first part of the talk will discuss arguments in favour of this view. The second part of the talk will explore the implications of such a view for our views on agency. In particular, if the mindshaping thesis is correct, this raises the question of how to account for autonomous agency. If our experience, beliefs and values are a result of our normatively structured interactions with others, in what sense can our actions still be owned? Building on Meyers’ (1989) “autonomy competence” model, I will propose that in order to account for autonomous, responsible agency on such a view, we need to think of agency as a set of coordinated skills and abilities that can both be enabled as well as limited by different types of socialisation.

Robert Prentner, “A Process Model of Phenomenology”

Our world could be conceived of as not falling neatly into the categories of mind or matter, subject or object. Standard idealist but also standard physicalist interpretations are ruled out. An alternative framework is given by a philosophy that acknowledges the fundamentality of relations and processes. I propose that a major benefit of such a metaphysical reframing would be its ability to help us make sense of consciousness. To see this, let us briefly look at phenomenology. On a standard reading, phenomenology is the systematic study of first-person experience. But as soon as one probes a little deeper into the phenomenological literature, one will discover that phenomenology deals with entities (such as Husserlian “essences”) that can neither be classified as mental nor material, at least not straightforwardly. Traditional metaphysical positions are underdetermined by phenomenology, and it is natural to re-conceptualize phenomenology within a process model. Conscious perception would then be tantamount to getting an insight into the non-dual and processual nature of reality.