Doctoral Dissertation Research 

Dissertation title: Panpsychism and the Problem of Mental Causation 

Committee Members: Eleonore Stump, John Heil, and Godehard Brüntrup


The problem of how mental phenomena can influence the physical world has long puzzled philosophers. While we acknowledge the impact of our mental experiences on our actions, the principle of causal closure of the physical world presents a challenge. This principle suggests that physical events have solely physical causes, potentially disregarding the role of mental states. Thus, the problem of mental causation, also known as the ‘exclusion problem,’ arises, wherein independent psychological and physical explanations offer distinct causal accounts for the same action, potentially leading to systematic overdetermination.

In response to this problem, philosophers have explored various approaches. Most proposed solutions in the current literature have originated from two metaphysical camps: physicalism and dualism. However, both of these metaphysical worldviews encounter significant difficulties when addressing this issue.

Recently, a metaphysical theory called panpsychism, specifically ‘Panpsychist Russellian Monism’ (PRM), has emerged, shedding new light on the ontological status of mental entities in the world. PRM suggests a close interconnection between mental and physical entities, with a fundamental role attributed to phenomenal consciousness. It posits that mental entities form the basis for physical entities, where consciousness serves as a categorical foundation for the dispositional relations uncovered by physical sciences.

The research endeavors to investigate whether PRM offers a distinct solution to the problem of mental causation in comparison to physicalism and dualism. It explores the challenges faced by PRM and its potential for providing a more effective resolution. Through an examination of the interplay between mental and physical aspects, an investigation into the ontological status of mental entities, and the endeavor to bridge the explanatory gap, this research aims to construct a model of Panpsychist Russellian Monism. Such a model seeks to provide a unique and distinctive solution to the challenging problem of mental causation.

Published Papers in Peer-Reviewed Journals 

Forthcoming: European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 

(Co-authored with Davood Hosseini )


 Ontological pluralism is the view that there are different ways of being. Historically, ways of being are aligned with the ontological categories. This paper is about to investigate why there is such a connection, and how it should be understood. Ontological pluralism suffers from an objection, according to which ontological pluralism collapses to ontological monism, i.e., there is only one way to be. Admitting to ontological categories can save ontological pluralism from this objection if ways of being ground ontological categories. 


This paper deals with the question of what the most appropriate semantic theory for theoretical terms would be. Traditionally, in the contemporary literature of philosophy of language, there have been two widely held semantic theories: the descriptivist theory and the causal theory. Comparing theoretical terms with natural kind terms, I attempt to show that the causal theory of reference applies to natural kinds owing to certain ontological and epistemological assumptions of natural kinds realism. I argue that there is no reason to keep these assumptions with respect to theoretical entities. Consequently, the causal theory of reference cannot be applied to theoretical terms. Instead, because of certain ontological and epistemological features of theoretical entities, the rival semantic theory, i.e., the descriptivist theory of reference, properly explains how the referents of these terms get fixed and how these terms find their referents. The paper is structured as follows: the first part deals with the question of how a theoretical entity/kind should be distinguished from non-theoretical ones. The second part facilitates a comparison between theoretical kinds and natural kinds to reveal the ontological and epistemological features of each category. In the third part, I argue why the causal theory of reference fails to be a plausible semantic for theoretical terms, and why its rival theory, i.e., the descriptivist theory, provides an appropriate semantic for such terms. Finally, I raise two potential objections regarding my proposed view and try to show how these objections can be overcome. 


Pluralists believe in the occurrence of numerically distinct spatiotemporally coincident objects. They argue that there are coincident objects that share all physical and spatiotemporal properties and relations; nevertheless, they differ in terms of modal and some other profiles. Appealing to the grounding problem according to which nothing can ground the modal differences between coincident objects, monists reject the occurrence of coincident objects,

In the first part of this paper, I attempt to show that the dispute between monists and pluralists cannot be settled based upon the grounding problem tout court. I argue that the grounding problem or a very similar problem is a challenge for all monists and pluralists alike if they are ontologically committed to the existence of composite objects as independent entities. In the final part, adopting the Aristotelian account of essence, I propose a solution that enables pluralists to plausibly ground modal differences between coincident objects.


Quine, the famous American empiricist philosopher, in wake of his criticisms of quantified modal logic, believes that the logic is committed to a doctrine that he calls Aristotelian Essentialism, and tries to prove that the doctrine is meaningless. He defines Aristotelian Essentialism as a doctrine that distinguishes between things’ essential and accidental properties, and the distinction is independent of the language in which the things are referred to, and also the ways by which they are specified. In the present paper, based on Aristotle's works, I have tried to find out whether Quine has defined Aristotelian essentialism correctly, and whether his criticisms of essentialism include what Aristotle means by essentialism or not. I have argued that Quine has not analyzed Aristotelian essentialism correctly.

Keywords: Essentialism, Modality, Aristotle, Quine.

Under Review Papers