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Does Dispositionalism Entail Panpsychism?

  • Hedda Hassel MørchEmail author


According to recent arguments for panpsychism, all (or most) physical properties are dispositional, dispositions require categorical grounds, and the only categorical properties we know are phenomenal properties. Therefore, phenomenal properties can be posited as the categorical grounds of all (or most) physical properties—in order to solve the mind–body problem and/or in order avoid noumenalism about the grounds of the physical world. One challenge to this case comes from dispositionalism, which agrees that all physical properties are dispositional, but denies that dispositions require categorical grounds. In this paper, I propose that this challenge can be met by the claim that the only (fundamentally) dispositional properties we know are phenomenal properties, in particular, phenomenal properties associated with agency, intention and/or motivation. Versions of this claim have been common in the history of philosophy, and have also been supported by a number of contemporary dispositionalists (and other realists about causal powers). I will defend a new and updated version of it. Combined with other premises from the original case for panpsychism—which are not affected by the challenge from dispositionalism—it forms an argument that dispositionalism entails panpsychism.


Panpsychism Dispositionalism Categoricalism Causal powers 



I would like to thank Sam Coleman, Sebastian Watzl, Philip Goff, David Chalmers, Andrew Lee, two anonymous referees, and participants at the conference “Panpsychism, Russellian monism and the Nature of the Physical” at the University of Oslo for comments on various drafts of this paper.


This work has been funded by The Research Council of Norway through a FRIPRO Mobility Grant, Contract No. 240328/F10. The FRIPRO Mobility Grant scheme (FRICON) is co-funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under Marie Curie Grant Agreement No. 608695.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and IdeasUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Center for Mind, Brain and ConsciousnessNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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