Reconsidering the Metaphysics of Science from the Inside Out

  • Jonathan W. Schooler
  • Tam Hunt
  • Joel N. Schooler
Part of the Studies in Neuroscience, Consciousness and Spirituality book series (SNCS, volume 1)


Material reductionism – the prevailing metaphysical view that reality can be understood entirely in terms of non-conscious physical stuff – is at odds with the existence of experience, the flow of time, and the privileged present. We propose an alternative scientifically-grounded metaphysical perspective that posits: (1) Consciousness represents a fundamental aspect of reality such that all material things enjoy some varying degree of consciousness (panpsychism); (2) nervous systems entail a nested hierarchy of distinct conscious observers; (3) both experience and the flow of time suggest the reality of a subjective realm of existence; (4) the flow of time suggests a process by which all observers collectively sample segments of continuous space/time at different rates, creating a composite of experienced moments of varying thickness; (5) the possibility that consciousness can influence the duration and selection of experienced moments affords a possible opportunity for genuine free will. Although speculative, these conjectures illustrate the type of alternative metaphysics that may be able to accommodate scientific observations without abandoning the self-evident facts that experience exists and time flows.


Subjective Experience Conscious Experience Binocular Rivalry Actual Entity Objective Time 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are grateful to many individuals for their input and assistance with this chapter. Ben Baird provided comments on numerous drafts and assisted with references. The ideas presented here were helpfully refined by discussions with many people, none of whom should be assumed to endorse the resulting product. These include: Daniel Povinelli, Merrill McSpadden, Carmi Schooler, Lael Schooler, Rachel Schooler, Nina Schooler, Roy Baumeister, Daniel Gilbert, Daniel Dennett, Mark Laufer, Jonathan Smallwood, Christine Tipper, Dianne Tice, Thomas Nadelhofer, and Harvey Bottelsen. The writing of this chapter was supported by grants from the James Bower Foundation and the Bial Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Netherlands 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan W. Schooler
    • 1
  • Tam Hunt
    • 1
  • Joel N. Schooler
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Lewis and Clark CollegePortlandUSA

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