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Midwest Studies in Philosophy, XXXV (2011)

Natural Unity and Human Exceptionalism1


ne of the most important threads connecting the central philosophical concerns of early modern thinkers with those of today is a vexed relationship with what we nowadays call naturalism. Of course, naturalism can be said in many ways. And so, to determine whether to embrace a naturalistic outlook, we need to know: Exactly what is at stake in doing so? In contemporary philosophy, stock answers to this question are often given in terms of the doctrine of
1. Thanks go to Reshef Agam-Segal, Joseph Almog, Etienne Balibar, Tyler Burge, Antonio Capuano, John Carriero, Sarah Coolidge, Brian Copenhaver, Harry Frankfurt, Christopher Frey, Kristina Gehrman, Keren Gorodeisky, Jodie Graham, Jeff Helmreich, Arata Hamawaki, Andrew Hsu, Kelly Jolley, Roderick Long, Peter Murray, Paul Nichols, Guy Rohrbaugh, Sheldon Smith, and Michael Watkins for helping develop these ideas in conversation, seminar discussion, and correspondence, and/or for comments on earlier drafts; and to all the participants of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Metaphysics Group and the ongoing Spinoza seminar at UCLA, which suffered through many presentations during which I struggled to articulate the beginnings of the present argument. Joseph Almogs Everything in Its Right Place: Spinoza and Life by the Light of Nature (Oxford University Press, forthcoming), chap. 7; Etienne Balibars Spinoza: From Individuality to Transindividuality (1993, unpublished manuscript) and Spinoza and Politics, trans. Peter Snowdon (New York: Verso Books, 2008); Sarah Coolidges Conceptual Carbon and Cosmic Carbon (unpublished manuscript); Gilles Deleuzes Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Zone Books, 1992); Paul Hoffmans The Unity of Descartess Man and The Union and Interaction of Mind and Body (parts 1 and 2) in his Essays on Descartes (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); and Howie Wettsteins Terra Firma: Naturalism and Wittgenstein, The Monist 78 (1995): 42546 are all texts that provided me with invaluable inspiration. This article is, like many of these texts, an attempt to mine the insights buried in Spinozas theory of nite individuals as modes of substance/nature/God.

2011 Copyright the Authors. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


Natural Unity and Human Exceptionalism


physicalism: the view that everything in the world around us (or perhaps everything whatsoever) entirely is or depends on the physical. For example, discussions of the nature of human cognitive life often take as their starting point a question like: What is the relation between the mental and the physical? And the fortunes of naturalism about the mind are usually held to rest on what this relation turns out to be. To the extent that we end up thinking that the mental is quite far removed from the physical, we leave naturalism behind. It is fair to ask a nave question here: what exactly is the connection being presupposed between naturalism and the physical? Indeed, from the point of view of many early modern debates in metaphysics, it is likely to seem as if these discussions begin somewhat late in the game. Of course, the terms mental and physical are the descendants, respectively, of the early modern terms thinking and extended. However, the familiar debates about thought and extension took place against a very different intellectual background. That is, children of the early moderns that we are, we usually take for granted that the key distinction for understanding the nature of human cognitive life is that between the mental and the physical. In contrast, philosophers of the seventeenth century made no such assumption but rather came to accord a special role to the distinction between thought and extension by struggling with something like the nave questionin particular, struggling to understand the nature that our contemporary term naturalism seems to invoke. What is this thing called nature? What is at stake in our conception of it? In particular, of what consequence is that conception to our understanding of ordinary natural individuals? Early modern philosophers tackled such questions head on and so came to think that the nature of human life poses a special problemfor example, that the distinction between thought and extension is a deeply troubling one.2
2. The problem of understanding the distinction between thought and extension is what Paul Hoffman (op. cit.) describes, in the form in which it is found in Descartes, as the problem of the unity of man (i.e., the unity of the distinct aspects of a human beingmind and body). This problem, however, is grounded in a prior problem: of the unity of the man (the human being) with naturewhat we might call the man/nature problem. That is, it is because Descartes felt the force of the latter problem (seeing the nature of human cognitive life as playing a role in a satisfactory account of the nature of naturein Cartesian terms, of the attribute of extension) that he was faced with the former one. Thus, prior to the question of how Descartes solves the problem of the unity of man, there is the question: Why exactly is Descartes led to this problem in the rst place? Why, in other words, does he think the unity of the man with nature poses such a deep problem? If, for example, it were to turn out that it is possible to dissolve the mannature problem that Descartes perceived, then any solution to the problem of mans unity would turn out to be idle. I argue in what follows that a great many parties in the debate over our contemporary mannature problemthat is, that between physicalism and its discontentspartake in a kind of primal antinaturalism: the exclusion of many aspects of our thought about human beings, in particular, from what I call the language of nature. In fact, I argue that the most hard-headed reductive physicalists partake in this primal antinaturalism. Although my task will not be to defend the claim that the mannature problem I outline is precisely the same as that that vexed Descartes, I do believe that it is worthwhile to pose a question about unitarian interpretations of Descartes on the mindbody relationof which Hoffmans hylomorphic account of the mindbody relation is an outstanding example. Namely, unitarian as they are, are they victim to something like primal antinaturalism? Spinoza, for example, seems to have made just this sort of charge against Descartess substantial distinction between mind and body. For interesting discussions of Spinozas


Manuel Mandel Cabrera Jr.

It is a striking fact about contemporary metaphysics that while naturalism is taken as a central topic, the philosophy of nature as such is almost entirely absent therein. Questions like the ones just mentioned are unfashionable, and many philosophers are likely to think of them as obscure. It seems to me that this has been to our detriment. This is because I think, not only that the foregoing questions about nature are just the ones we need to answer in order to understand the stakes of naturalism, but also that answers to them are already implicit in philosophical debates that seem, on the face of it, to be entirely uninterested in them. For this reason, there is a great deal of clarity to be gained by reinserting these relatively neglected early modern concerns back into the contemporary debates about naturalism. Or so I will argue later. That is, I will argue that what is fundamentally at stake in the question of whether to adopt a naturalistic outlook is natural unity the hanging together of nature as a whole. In particular, the drive toward natural unity explains why physicalism can seem like not simply an attractive view but an unavoidable one. Of course, physicalism is notoriously vulnerable to worries about the nature of human life. The general shape of such worries is that in order to preserve a robust conception of human beings and their special natureboth cognitive and practicalwe must either give up physicalism or embrace human exceptionalism: the view that human beings must, in important respects, stand outside nature. Against this perceived dilemma, I will argue that physicalism rests on a misunderstanding of the demands of a naturalistic outlookthat is, of natural unity. Further, rather than being the staunch opponent of physicalism it is often taken to be, the drive toward human exceptionalism is parasitic, so to speak, on the mistaken foundations of physicalism. To these ends, I will offer an alternative to physicalisma Spinoza-inspired view I call pluralistic monism. I will argue that it satises the demands of natural unity without falling into physicalisms confusions and without allowing exceptionalist worries to so much as get a grip. 1. THE TWO DRIVES What speaks most fundamentally in favor of a naturalistic outlook? We might say that to be a naturalist about x is to think x is a part of nature. But what is that? Our most basic conception of nature is something like the world around us. On this conception, being part of nature would simply mean being part of that world. I will call this very basic form of naturalism nave naturalism. Nave naturalism, I suggest, is not what is at stake in the contemporary conversation about naturalism. In an ordinary sense, a human beings cognitive and practical life clearly unfolds in the world around usnamely, wherever and whenever he or she thinks or acts. Thus, if we were to think that nave naturalism is what is at stake for defenders and critics of naturalism, then, we would thereby cast their debate in a strange light. We would think of naturalisms defenders as defending
naturalism, cf. Michael Della Roccas Spinoza (New York: Routledge, 2008) and his Representation and the MindBody Problem in Spinoza (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

Natural Unity and Human Exceptionalism


something with which nearly everyone agrees, its critics as claiming that humans are, at best, only partially present in the world around us and thus, into the embarrassing position of having to say where else human lives could be unfolding. The debate over naturalism becomes more intelligible understood as a debate concerning our place in nature. What do I mean by this? When trying to understand what something in nature is, we face the fact of natural diversity. What is present in any natural localea solar system, toothpaste tube, or human body looks very different from what is present elsewhere. To make sense of natural diversity, we situate it against the background of natural unity. Our grip on natural diversity, that is, seems incomplete unless we can understand natural phenomena in terms of our overall picture of nature as a wholeunless we can naturally integrate them. Now, natural integration is nothing more exotic than what we nd at work in natural science. Suppose we see some carbon behaving in a way that is incompatible with our current understanding of carbon. In response, we might think our carbon theory awed, or that we made a mistake gathering observations and drawing conclusions from them, or even that this stuff is not carbon at all. But concluding that carbon just happens to work differently in this locale would be a mistake. It would amount to giving up on understanding what carbon is, conceding the existence of supernatural carbon. Ultimately, an account of carbons nature will be satisfactory only if it tells us what unity there is among the diverse manifestations of carbon and between carbon and the diversity in nature as a whole. The best scientic accounts we have of carbon do just thatby telling us, for example, that carbon atoms are made up of ingredients that in different combinations make up every atom whatsoever, and why something composed in just that way behaves as it does in varying circumstances. In doing so, they push toward carbons complete natural integration. This explains why we nd them satisfying. As with carbon, so with us. In common life and conversation, nave naturalism about human life is our default setting: We experience that lifeincluding what is most exceptional about itas something that manifestly unfolds in the world around us. A woman sits next to me when I arrive at the cafe, sipping coffee with irritation on her face at the nearby man shouting into his cell phone. That she is alive, acting, and in a particular state of mind, here amidst me, the tables and other personsall this is obvious from a casual glance. And though philosophers sometimes presume otherwise, the same is true of myself. Likewise irritated, I catch the womans glance and roll my eyes in sympathy at her, and we silently trade smiles. When I do, I experience my thinking and action as a further episode of my own history, unfolding here and now in this cafe. In my experiences of my own life and the lives of others, I am a nave naturalist about human lifeincluding human thought and actionbefore I even have my morning coffee.3
3. My talk of nave naturalism as our default setting owes a great deal to Howie Wettsteins discussion (op. cit.) of the terra rma naturalism he nds in Wittgenstein. In particular, Wettsteins claim that there is a form of naturalism that is in place prior to the setting in of the theoretical distinctions in which philosophical debate (indeed, debate in the culture at large) is often couched is an insight upon which my argument draws heavily.


Manuel Mandel Cabrera Jr.

Because it is our default setting, nave naturalism is the starting point from which theoretical forays into the study of human nature depart. It would seem that to get from this starting point to an understanding of what each of us is requires just what is required for carbon or any other natural being: nding a place for us, including what is remarkable about us, in nature. The project would then be to naturally integrate human lifea project that begins with nave naturalism and ends with naturalism enriched. But we are sometimes apt to disengage from the default settingthat is, to think of ourselves as standouts in nature. Here, I do not mean simply that we think of ourselves as exceptionalbits of nature that are different from anything else in it. Anything in nature is exceptional in this sense: As nave naturalists, we would have no reason to deny it. And in fact, this is precisely what natural integration seeks not only to address but also to preserve. Rather, we sometimes slide from thinking of ourselves as exceptional to thinking of ourselves as exceptionsas exemptions, so to speak, from the standards to which we hold everything else in nature. In particular, this drive toward human exceptionalism shows up in certain of the theoretical forays that philosophers sometimes engage in. It is herein two philosophical motifs, in particularthat the perceived tension between this drive and the drive toward natural unity is clearest. The rst motif is of human beings as spectators to naturethe spectator motif for short. The locus for this motif lies in philosophical conceptions of mind. At the root of our ordinary notion of mind are events we witness all around us. I sit on the porch on a warm summer night and see a pair of katydids ying loopty loops. A player on the eld stumbles and twists his or her knee, and I see his or her face crumple in pain. As we sit in the hospital waiting room, my heart sinks as I see my brother tapping his feet and know that he is wondering what to do if our mothers surgery goes badly. What ties these disparate events together is something like this: Human beings have a point of view on the world, one that, in many respects, is unlike those had by anything else we know of. Each of us has the world in her sights, and there is something it is like for this to be so. All of the events I mentioned manifest thisthe life of a human mind unfolding in the world. But what I am calling the spectator motif goes beyond these observations. Here, we do not think of our encounters with the world as akin to those that spectators have at a sports event or concertthat is, spectators who, like those involved in the spectacle they watch, are equal participants in a collective event. Rather, like Sartres voyeur, we think of ourselves as outsiders peeking in at nature from outside. This much stranger notion of ourselves as spectators shows up in conceptions of the mind as a subject matter that canentirely or in partbe considered in isolation from nature. It emerges somewhere in the distance we sometimes travel from our ordinary experiences of mind to certain philosophical conceptions thereof. We begin thinking that the world seems to us a certain way. We end up talking about seemings with which we can be presented in the total absence of a world. Or we begin thinking of what it was like to be hurt as akin to the force of the punch that hurt usyet another feature of our encounter with the mugger. We end

Natural Unity and Human Exceptionalism


up talking about what-its-like-nesses and wondering how they could possibly be part of nature. Or we begin thinking that the world strikes us so that, often in utter confusion, we face the task of guring out what has inserted itself into our cognitive lives. We end up thinking of ourselves as reaching out into the world through a veil of concepts or senses to make cognitive contact with it. Traveling the distance in these ways leads us to various versions of what I am calling the spectator motifversions, respectively, concerning thought, consciousness, and intentionality.4 We think and talk in these terms to signal a momentous problem: how, having considered them apart, to bring mind and world back together again. This problem is a manifestation of the drive toward human exceptionalism: specically, exceptionalism about human ways of having a viewpoint on the world. We are nagged repeatedly by the suspicion that the natural integration of our cognitive lives will lose something about what we are. It is important to remember, though, that because this strikes us as a problem, it is also a manifestation of the drive toward natural unity. The exceptionalist views into which we sometimes argue ourselves are unsettling. We realize something is scandalous about them so that even an unwavering exceptionalist knows he or she must overcome serious hurdles to attain a hard-won defense of her view. On the other hand, the naturalists struggle is often over exactly how to preserve our exceptionalist intuitions while, at the same time, naturally integrating the human mind. As I note later, parallel battle lines often emerge with respect to the second motif. This second motif is of human beings as interlopers in naturethe interloper motif for short. The primary locus for this motif lies in philosophical conceptions of agency. Here, again, the root of our ordinary notions of agency lies in experiences of events taking place in the world around us. I wave my arm at my friend across a crowded room. In sympathy for the widows grief, we take care of the housework until she can recover from the initial shock of her loss. The poet struggles for years on end to complete his or her masterpiece. Such experiences are, of course, of human beings doing things. As such, they are on a par with our experiences of any of the other doings we witness in nature: trees digging roots in the dirt, volcanoes erupting, and planets orbiting in space. To be sure, many human doings are unlike these others in myriad ways. Volcanoes do not erupt in sympathy with other volcanoes, trees do not dig at the dirt to make art, and planets do not orbit to catch someones attention. But this by itself only gives us reason to think that doings come in many avors, not that some of these are doings and others are not. In this sense, volcanoes, trees, and planets are just as much agents as we are. Of course, we can certainly say something about the avors in which human doings come. That is, not only do human beings have a viewpoint on the world: More, the things we do can be expressive of it. In many of the things we do, our
4. In particular, the three brief descriptions earlier are intended to evoke forms of exceptionalist lines of thought present, respectively, in Descartess arguments for mind/body dualism, contemporary discussions of consciousness in the wake of Tom Nagels classic article What Is It Like to Be a Bat? and conceptions of intentionality inspired by Frege and Kant.


Manuel Mandel Cabrera Jr.

viewpoints on the world make characteristic kinds of differences in it. The lesson we can draw is that here, again, something about us is a manifestation of natural diversityour doings are unlike any others we know of. But what I am calling the interloper motif goes beyond what I have said so far. The aforementioned observations warrant only what is warranted by our observations of any natural event. In contrast, in the interloper motif, we are drawn toward an image of human doings like my raising my arm, not as yet more events in the course of natural history but rather as ones that cannot be completely integrated into that history. In comparison with themgenuine doings or fullblooded actionsall other worldly doings are entirely different: accidental happenings or mere events. This conception of human agency arises in two prominent philosophical themes in particular: intentional action and free action. In the former case, a particular kind of event of which human actions are the paradigm is thought of as having a different logical architecture than any other kind of event in the world.5 In particular, certain features of the events that are our intentional actions are held to embody our points of view. This is what makes them things we do rather than mere events involving our bodies. However, the descriptions we use to capture these all-important features relate them to each other in ways that have no place in natureby relations of reason or justication. In this way, human actions are thought to stand outside nature in the very respects that make them manifestations of our agency. They are subject to forms of explanation or inference that have no analog in nature, or we describe them using judgments whose logical forms set them apart from any other natural event. And so the human beings who undertake these actions stand in a kind of logical bubble, insulated from the world around them. Likewise, when accounting for human freedom, we sometimes think of human actions as miracles exempt from the causal order of nature. I am free, on this view, because I am the subject of events of which I and I alone am the origin. As it were, I stand outside the course of history inserting events into the world from outside it. When taken by this image of freedom, we can think this is what the dignity and value of my action consists inas if human action is degraded unless it is divine, or that I am not accountable for my actions if freedom is not like thisas if one needed to be Moses conjuring water from a stone to be an object of praise or blame. As is the case with philosophical conceptions of human mind, there is of course a set of problems here over which philosophers puzzle. Our exceptionalist intuitions make us seem implausibly magical, even when they seem unavoidable. And, again, philosophers frequently address this perceived dilemma by attempting
5. I have in mind, in particular, the tradition of thought about intentional action stemming from Anscombes Intention, including especially the work of Donald Davidson and other places as well as current work from neo-Anscombians like Michael Thompson, cf. G. E. M. Anscombe, Intention (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000); Donald Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events (New York: Clarendon Press, 2001); Michael Thompson, Life and Action: Elementary Structures of Practice and Practical Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), especially parts I and II, The Representation of Life and Naive Action Theory.

Natural Unity and Human Exceptionalism


to reconcile its two horns.6 We tryperhaps like paranormal researchers struggling to nd a place in the periodic table for ectoplasmto nd a place in nature for what seem like the otherworldly forms exhibited by our actions or the otherworldly powers through which we undertake them. Now, I suspect that many people will think that in the case of both mind and agency, the drive toward natural unity clearly must win the day. However, self-styled naturalistsespecially the breed of them currently most common, physicalistsare, I will argue, frequently their own worst enemies. They frequently embrace a conception of what natural integration requires, which leaves them unnecessarily vulnerable to exceptionalist criticisms. It is widely presupposed, that is, that when trying to account for the natures of things we encounter in nature, a naturalistic outlook comes at a substantial costthat the cost of natural unity is the impoverishment of our expressive resources. In particular, those resources will not, at least in the rst instance, include the very concepts we need to account for mind and agencythat is, to articulate what is most remarkable about human life. On this picture, there is, at the start, a particular sort of gap between human life and nature as a wholea conceptual one. A commitment to this gap is, of course, a necessary presupposition for the view that the gap cannot be overcome. This might seem, at rst, to be a trivial logical observation. However, in what follows, I will argue that it is not. I will rst motivate the aforementioned diagnosis of physicalism. But more than this, I will argue that this conception of natural integration is profoundly mistaken. 2. THE PHYSICAL IMAGE OF NATURE Consider, then, the following claim, which is of a kind frequently put forward as a thesis in metaphysics: I am nothing more than so many subatomic particles arranged in a such-and-such way. Other claims of this kind include the following: Penny the dog is nothing over and above this region of extension or the tree outside is identical to this quantity of extension changing over time. These and like formulae are, as I intend them to be understood, variations on physicalism, a claim of the form: Such-and-such entirely is or depends on the physical. But what kind of view is this meant to express, and why do we nd such a view attractive when we do? For example, should we think of physicalism as what I called nave naturalism? This would be a mistake. For to be a nave naturalist about x is just to think that x (e.g., a dog, a tree, a human being) is out there in nature. And so, if physicalism was nave naturalism, many physicalist views might seem trivial. Physicalists would be reduced to claiming something with which nearly everyone agreesat least, in common life and conversation: that instances of human
6. With respect to intentional action, both of the currently dominant research programs in the metaphysics of actionso-called causal theories la Donald Davidson and neo-Anscombian revivals of the Aristotelian conception of substantial form la Michael Thompsonare attempts to do just this. To my mind, exemplary instances of this strategy with regard to autonomous action can be found in the work of compatibilist realists about freedom and/or moral responsibility like Harry Frankfurt, P. F. Strawson, and David Velleman.


Manuel Mandel Cabrera Jr.

thought and action are to be met with in the world around us. By the same token, many anti-physicalists would be cornered into claiming that human beings are partly outside of nature. This indicates that the identication of physicalism with nave naturalism fails to capture what is really going on in such controversies. In what follows, I will suggest that making sense of physicalism requires understanding the role that three notions in particular play in it: rst, the notion of natural unity; second, the notion of natural uniformity; and third, the notion of a language of nature. To begin with, at the root of physicalisms attraction is, I believe, the drive toward natural unity. We can see how this is so by reecting on the appeals to physics thatsometimes implicitly but very often explicitlyunderlie the modern philosophical notion of the physical. Why should physics occupy a privileged role here? Why not biology, anthropology, or geology? For that matter, why not philately? Because physics, as classically conceived, is the science of nature as such. This is what is behind the traditional distinction between physics and the so-called special sciences. While such sciencessciences like biology, anthropology, and geologydeal only with particular regions of nature, physics aims to understand nature as a whole. As it were, physics does not concern itself primarily with local facts but rather with global ones. It encompasses all the special sciences in the sense that its gaze ranges over everything that any of them brings into view. When philosophers say that something is thoroughly physical, the thought is generally that we must understand it from the point of view of physics. But to do so is simply to view it from the point of view of its place in nature as a whole. Claiming that everything in the world around us entirely is or depends on the physical, then, is giving expression to the drive toward natural unitythe drive to naturally integrate everything we nd in nature. However, this does not yet tell us exactly what conception of natural integration lies at the root of physicalism. Physicalism, as I understand it, does not merely give expression to the drive toward natural unity. Rather, in it this drive takes a particular form, one that has been shaped by the development of modern physics. Here, by physics, I do not merely mean the science of nature as suchthe science abstractly dened in the classical conception of physics I have already mentioned. Rather, I mean the empirical science that is practiced in physics laboratories and taught in physics departmentsthe inheritance of early modern developments in natural philosophy. Philosophers have been particularly impressed by a certain picture of nature that modern physics seems to have given uswhat I will call the physical image of nature.What kind of image is this? For our purposes, two aspects of it are signicant. First, it is an image of nature as uniform. Second, it is an image of nature as uniform in particular way, which I will explain using a notion of transcendence. To begin with, to say that nature is uniform in the sense I have in mind is to say that in an important respect, it is the same throughout. Namely, there is a kind of structure or organizationcall it the natural orderwhich is operative everywhere in nature. The notion that the order of the natural world is uniform nds its inspiration in the fundamental role played by natural laws in the explanations characteristic of modern physics. An account of the most general natural laws

Natural Unity and Human Exceptionalism


precisely species kinds of structure or organization that pervade any and every natural localeplanets, stars, living things, thinking things, undertakers of actions, and all the rest. It gives us a picture of nature in which its uniformities are starkly foregrounded. However, such an account has another feature that is important for understanding what I am calling the physical image of nature. According to this image, the uniform natural order is what I will call a transcendent one. A transcendent order is one that, so to speak, determines ahead of time the manifestations of natural diversity. That is, to believe in such an order is to think that any manifestation of diversityany event, kind, property, or objectshows up as an instantiation of possibilities already in place prior to the unfolding of natural history. An account of the natural laws will, on the physical image of nature, precisely specify a transcendent ordera set of principles that govern nature and can be articulated using propositions that tell us what any natural phenomenon whatsoever can be like. In the hand of metaphysicians, the physical image of nature has given rise to the conception of natural integration at work in physicalism. On this conception, to naturally integrate something is to understand it in terms of its place in the uniform, transcendent natural orderfor example, in terms of the most general natural laws. We can see this conception at work in a certain use of the word physical quite common in contemporary metaphysics. On this use, those items (e.g., objects, kinds, and properties) are physical that would be represented using the repertoire of concepts employed in a complete or canonical physics, understood as an account of the natural laws. To understand something as thoroughly physical, on this use, is to understand what it is exclusively using concepts from this repertoire: the repertoire of so-called physical concepts.This conception of what we do when we understand something as thoroughly physical is, in fact, the beating heart of physicalism as a metaphysical doctrine. To see physicalism at work, let us again consider carbonwhich most would consider to be something about which physicalism is uncontroversially true. When we discover that carbon is something with atomic number 6that is, whose nucleus is composed of six protonswe are thereby in a position to consider it in terms of its place in an account of the natural order. For such an account plausibly will mention protons. More than this, it will articulate as a possibility for them that they be combined with one another just as they are in the nuclei of carbon. In this way, once we make this discovery, we are in a position to understand carbon as a variation on something that is itself invariant: the transcendent natural order of which the kinds proton and electron are ineliminable aspects. And we are in a position to understand something about the diverse manifestations of carbonfor example, the various forms it takes in this or that carbon ion, the various ways in which it combines with other elements in compounds, and the various events in which it is involved. Namely, we are in a position to understand each of these as manifestations of a single thingthat is, as different ways in which the career of carbon might unfold in the world. Insofar as our discovery allows us to comprehend the unity of carbon and its unity with the rest of nature, we have naturally integrated carbon.


Manuel Mandel Cabrera Jr.

It is important to remember, though, that the physicalist about carbon goes beyond the observations just made about it. She does not simply wish to say that we understand carbon better when we discover that it has atomic number 6. This much is undeniable. Rather, he or she is trying to tell us what the correct account of carbons natureof what it fundamentally ismust look like. We can capture the commitments of the physicalists conception of any natural beings nature in the following way: the language of nature is physical language. What, though, do I mean by a language of nature? The word nature here is to be understood in both of the ways I have been using it so farto designate both the world around us in its entirety (nature) and the natures of the things in it. That is, to call a repertoire of concepts the language of nature is to say that we can use them to both capture what it is to be any particular natural being and articulate the unity among natural phenomena. When we are gripped by physicalism about some x, the drive toward natural unity takes a particular form: a conviction that the language of nature is the one we use to articulate the uniform, transcendent natural order. Such a language employs all and only physical concepts. In other words, it is physical language. For someone who accepts this restriction on the language of nature, what, then, becomes of the claims we make about natural beings like carbon, trees, or human beings using concepts that are not physical ones in the foregoing sense? Let us rst consider one classical approach: reductive physicalism. For the reductive physicalist, when dealing with facts represented by such claims, we are faced with the task of, so to speak, recovering them using physical concepts. In other words, we are faced with the task of undertaking reductions: for example, of claims that employ nonphysical concepts to claims which employ only physical ones or of the items designated by nonphysical concepts to items designated by physical ones. The reductive physicalist about carbon, for example, will say that carbon is nothing but a substance with atomic number 6insert here whatever description using physical concepts seems appropriate. And this is because when we describe it using such concepts, we capture what unies it with the rest of naturethe fact that it exhibits kinds of structure or order present everywhere in nature. Now, putting carbon aside, reductive physicalism about our target phenomenonhuman lifeis no longer a widespread view. However, it offers us the most clear-cut example of an attempt to satisfyand in the most direct way possiblethe demands that physicalists feel the force of quite generally: (1) to understand the natures of natural beings as dependent on their unity with everything else in nature and (2) to do this by achieving semantic rapprochement between our descriptions of nature as a whole our and accounts of the natures of discrete phenomena. There are other (and currently more common) ways of trying to satisfy this two-part demand: for example, supervenience-based forms of physicalism, which posit forms of dependence weaker than identity. And there are different conceptions of the language of naturethe language with which a rapprochement must be achieved: for example, conceptions in which we include in the language of nature conceptual apparatus, not simply from the empirical science of physics, but also from other natural sciences. We will have occasion later to discuss forms of physi-

Natural Unity and Human Exceptionalism


calism weaker than the reductive variety, but for the moment, my suggestion is that both ways of liberalizing physicalism are nevertheless vulnerable to the threestep diagnosis I have offered. That is, they are still ways of attempting to satisfy both (1) and (2)albeit on the basis of less austere interpretations of the constraints imposed thereby. Of course, even taking into account more liberal forms of physicalism, I do not claim that absolutely every view that calls itself physicalism can be diagnosed in the aforementioned way. But I do believe I have articulated something fundamental about why it is so attractive to claim that something in the world around us isor depends for its nature on what isthoroughly physical: why, in fact, claims like this can seemespecially given the vision of physics that emerges in the modern periodabsolutely unavoidable. To deny that something that is clearly to be met with in nature (a planet, a tree, a human being) is or depends on the physical can seem like embracing the existence of supernatural carbon described earlier: like a failure to go the distance and put in the difcult work necessary to naturally integrate this being. What, then, could explain the fact that physicalism has so many discontentsin particular, physicalism about human life? This is what I will address next. 3. NATURAL UNIFORMITY AND IMPOVERISHED DESCRIPTIONS I claimed earlier that to be a physicalist about some phenomenon is not merely to claim that it can be understood better when it is described using physical concepts. Likewise, the denial of physicalism about some subject matter does not necessarilyand most frequently does not actuallyamount to the denial that a thing can be understood better when it is situated in the uniform, transcendent natural order. Rather, most often, its starting point lies in the denial that we can captureor fully capturethis subject matters nature when we describe it exclusively using those terms that make clear its place in that order. When we describe certain phenomena, the thought goes, using only physical conceptsin particular, human mind, or agencywe impoverish our descriptive capacities so much that the natures of those phenomena are lost, and with them, the exceptional character of human life itself. One form in which such worries have brewed in recent philosophy has been using what may be called dppelganger scenarios. A classical variation on the dppelganger scenario, due to Donald Davidson, is Swampman.7 In it, we imagine
7. Cf. Donald Davidsons Knowing Ones Own Mind, in Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 1538. Particularly interesting uses of Swampman and similar dppelganger scenarios (e.g., Twin Earth scenarios and zombies) in the service of an investigation into the natures of things and their place in the natural world are Hilary Putnams The Meaning of Meaning, in Mind, Language and Reality; Philosophical Papers, Vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 21571; Tyler Burges articles work on anti-individualism, particularly Individualism and the Mental, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4(1) (1979): 73122; Dominik Sklenars Being of a Kind (unpublished dissertation, UCLA, 1997); Ned Blocks Troubles With Functionalism, in Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, Volume 1, ed. Ned Block


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that a physical replica of a human beingsay, Davidson himselfis created by a lightning bolt striking a tree in a swamp. Davidson dies, and Swampman replaces him. He (or rather it) moves about in the world just as Davidson would, fooling everyone it meets into thinking it is Davidson. What purposes could be served by reecting on such a strange scenario which might very well be in the strongest sense impossible? The Swampman thought experiment and similar dppelganger scenarios have been used, in a wide variety of contexts, to limn the boundaries of this or that form of physical descriptionin particular, of forms of physical description for human beings. That is, it has been used to pose questions like the following: can what is most exceptional about human lifethose aspects of ourselves that we take to be central to what we arebe captured, as the reductive physicalist would have it, using only physical concepts? Could it even completely depend, as the less demanding supervenience-based physicalist would have it, on the items (particulars, kinds, properties) we represent using physical language? Could Swampman (or something like it) be a human being in all those respects that we take to be central to what they are, or could its existence only be a dim shadow of human life? Using such scenarios, this kind of question has been asked about all of the philosophical themes concerning mind and agency we saw in the two exceptionalist motifs. In fact, the worries that philosophers have sometimes expressed using these scenarios are exemplary cases of both. For example, with respect to the subject matter of mind, variations on scenarios like Hilary Putnams Twin Earth thought experiment and Davidsons Swampman case have been used to question whether the intentional relations to phenomena required for thought can be captured using this or that mode of physical description. Or philosophers have wondered whether there would be anything it would be like to be a purely physical duplicate of a human beingwhether, in the philosophical jargon, zombies would have consciousness.8 In both cases, we nd a worry playing itself out through the use of dppelganger casesnamely, that physical descriptions are insufcient for capturing the hallmarks of human mindedness. Similar metaphysical worries have spawned a great deal of discussion in the philosophy of human agency. For example, inquiries into the nature of human action are often posed at the outset using a question formulated by Wittgenstein: what is left over if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm?9 Often, this is used as a way of posing the question: What is it that
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), 268305; David Chalmers The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996); and Michael Thompson (op. cit.). 8. The notion of a zombie (as the term is used in contemporary discussions of consciousness) has its deep origins, of course, in Descartess claim that my body by itself is like an automatona being whose workings are thoroughly mechanical and quite literally mindless. However, the contemporary notion itself traces back to reections by Saul Kripke in Lecture III of Naming and Necessity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980) and has been developed fruitfully in the work of philosophers like David Chalmers. 9. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1973), 621. It should be noted that Wittgenstein perhaps thought this is ultimately a misguided way of posing questions about the character of human action.

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distinguishes human actionsfor example, things I do intentionallyfrom mere movements of molecules or mere bodily events? What makes this kind of question seem pressing is the sense that for human actions to be just more motions of moleculesevents comprehensible using only the concepts with which we make sense of any event in natureis not enough. The worry here is that the sense in which we can do things must involve something more than the sense in which volcanoes, trees, and other natural beings do things. Something must be added to a mere physical event for it to be genuine human actionfor example, to embody my viewpoint and the normative commitments thereof.10 Otherwise, it is a mere dppelganger of human action. Such worries show up in a different form when we turn to debates about free action, which are frequently driven by a question like How can I be the origin of my actions even while they are imbedded in a natural history whose order as described by physics is a causal one? What makes this question intelligible is the worry that we cannotthat when we think of an action as something imbedded in natural history, we no longer consider it as something I freely do. From the point of view of the physical image of nature, our actions are not things we genuinely do but rather mere physical replicas of free actionsjust one damn thing happening after another.11 Here, again, we might of course complain that volcanoes and treeswhose natures we are more likely to concede can be understood using physical concepts aloneare the origins of their doings in a quite ordinary sense: volcanoes of their eruptions and trees of their root diggings. But this is unlikely to satisfy someone gripped by the worries about free action that motivate the present question. For him or her, the sense in which volcanoes are the origins of their eruptions and trees of their root diggings must be categorically differentnot just different in its particularsfrom that in which I am the origin of the things I do freely. For
10. Here, I mean to reference Anscombes famously dark and rich discussion of intentional action in 1920 of Intention. Although I will not argue for this here, I believe, however, that Anscombes arguments concerning intentional action are perhaps just as driven by exceptionalist worries as are the views she has in mind to attack. At the very least, this is true of certain recent attempts to develop her reectionsfor example, in Michael Thompsons Naive Action Theory (cf. Thompson op. cit.). Thompsons project with regard to action is to argue that we can and must add to the mere motions of molecules something akin to Aristotelian substantial form as schematized in certain forms of explanation and logical forms of judgmentin Thompsons way of speaking, the form of human lifein order to account for what it is for molecular motions to acquire the status of intentional actions. Such forms cannot be accounted for in physical terms: The latter only allow us to countenance an intentional action (as well as, more generally, living organisms and many events in which they are involved) as a mere congeries of physical particles (Thompson, p. 60). I will develop these arguments in a future work, tentatively entitled Three Grades of Practical Cartesianism. 11. The best summations of this kind of worry I know ofalthough ones that characterize them in a very different way than I haveare due to Tom Nagel, cf, especially the chapter entitled Autonomy in The View From Nowhere (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986) and his Moral Luck, in Mortal Questions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 2438. The locus classicus, to my mind, for attempts to understand the conditions for free action in a way that puts aside this kind of metaphysical worry is P. F. Strawsons Freedom and Resentment, in Freedom and Resentment and Other Essays (New York: Routledge, 2008), 128.


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example, to be free, I must, in some way, be exempt from a fundamental aspect of the natural orderthe fact that it is a causal one. By now, I hope it is clear that the worries that guide such uses of dppelganger scenarios are instances of the spectator and interloper motifs discussed earlier. In each case, philosophical debate is driven by the worry that human beings, insofar as they are agents with minds, cannot be inhabitants of nature on a par with any other. And this is because although physical language is adequate for describing most of nature, it provides only an impoverished language for describing us. Talk of mere physical duplicates in these contexts means something like satisers of physical descriptions, where the word physical is to be understood as marking off those concepts with which we understand the order of nature as a whole. And so when we conne our accounts of human nature to descriptions using physical language, what is most exceptional about the phenomenon of human life is lost from view. Again, in none of these cases are philosophers worrying that physical language can tell us nothing illuminating about human life but rather that it does not allow us to say enough. Again, I do not claim that absolutely every exceptionalist view in metaphysics can be diagnosed in the way I have just done. However, the foregoing discussion physicalism and its discontents does, I believe, capture something fundamental about the contemporary conversation about naturalism. It captures, in particular, why it has seemed so clear to many philosophers that to take a position vis--vis naturalism about a subject matterfor example, the human mindis to situate oneself on a certain spectrum of views at one end of which is reductive physicalism and at the other end of which is full-blown dualism. When we conceive the range of views available to us in this way, we have traveled quite a ways away from nave naturalism. What gives this strange new dialectical terrain its shape? The picture I have sketched of the two drives provides us with an answer. In one corner, we have the drive toward natural unity, taking here a very particular formviz the thesis that the language of nature is physical language. Armed with this thesis, we are led to think that in order to embrace a naturalistic outlook we must describe all natural phenomena as they are described in the physical image of naturethat is, using only the expressive resources available to us in physical language. In the other corner, we have the drive toward human exceptionalism, nourished to varying extents by this thesis. The various views to be found on the spectrum between reductive physicalism and dualism emerge from the encounter between these two combatants. When the former gives no ground, we are led to reductive physicalism; when the latter does, we are led to dualism. In between, we nd many other views, for example, supervenience-based forms of physicalism, which preserve the distinctness of minds, mental states, and/or mental properties while maintaining their dependence on the human beings place in nature. Of course, reductive physicalism, dualism, supervenience-based physicalismthese views are often in competition with one another. However, they compete on a shared terrain generated by the notion that the cost of natural integration is the impoverishment of the language of nature. But does natural integration really come at this cost? In the concluding section of this article, I will argue that it does not. Neither a commitment to natural

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unity nor even to natural uniformity requires that we impoverish our expressive resources as the physicalist does. So neither commitment leads us inevitably to the stand-off between physicalism and its exceptionalist discontents. For this reason, I believe that both are misguided. I will argue that this is so by describing and motivating an alternative view that embraces both natural unity and natural uniformity without leading us to either endpluralistic monism. 4. PLURALISTIC MONISM AND THE LANGUAGE OF NATURE I will try to make clear the view I have in mind by considering how it interprets the three notions I claimed earlier are at work in the motivations for physicalismthe language of nature, natural uniformity, and natural unity. First, the pluralistic monist understands the language of nature in a much different way than does the physicalist. For the pluralistic monist, that is, the language of nature is not physical language; rather, it is simply ordinary language. What do I mean by this? On this conception, any of the concepts we use when expressing any truth about a being in nature is a part of the language of nature. In fact, the pluralistic monist holds something even stronger: Every such truth is itself among the things we will say when deploying the language of nature. Thus, for example, the concepts we use to express the truths of biology, anthropology, psychology, and geology are components of the language of nature. Because the pluralistic monist thinks this is true, for his or her biology, anthropologyindeed any of the natural sciencesare just as much physics, on the classical conception, as the scientic project of discovering the most general natural laws. That is, for the pluralistic monist, all of the foregoing sciences are sciences of nature as such. The truths delivered to us by these sciences, then, count just as much as physical truths as any of the propositions given to us by scientists working in physics departments are; and the concepts used in the propositions of those sciences are just as much physical concepts as those employed in specications of the most general natural laws. Now, despite physicalisms grounding in the physical image of nature delivered to us by the modern empirical science of physics, this much would be accepted by a wide range of physicalists. However, the pluralistic monist is committed to something much stronger than this. Namely, she thinks any truth concerning beings in the world around us are just as much truths of physicsof the science of nature as suchas any of the propositions of any natural science. This includes the propositions by means of which we describe the ordinary manifestations of agency and mind that we witness in the world around us. That I am perceiving some katydids, that there is something it is like for this to be so, that I am thinking about their lovely green color and deliberating about how I might get a photo of them, that I am acting when I slowly take my camera phone out and point it in their directionall of these are truths of physics. And so all of the concepts and terms used therein are part of the language of nature. In other words, the pluralistic monist does not aim to simply liberalize restrictions on the language of nature say, beyond those limits honored in the most austere forms of physicalism. Rather, she rejects the need for any restrictions whatsoever.


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But how could ordinary language be the language of nature? There are two questions that must be addressed here, corresponding to the two criteria for being a language of naturenamely, that it be a language with which we specify the nature of any natural being and specify the unity to be found among natural phenomena. First, why think that the language by which we specify the nature of a natural being includes all the concepts we use to express truths about it? We can answer this question by reecting on the pluralistic monists stronger commitment. We can ask: how could somethings nature include all of the facts about it?12 There is a stark difference here between pluralistic monism and many traditional views about nature or essence. Traditionally, the truths that tell us what a things nature is are, or are subclasses of, the necessary truths about it.13 For the pluralistic monist, in contrast, a natural beings nature is not exhausted by its necessities. Quite the contrary: Any truth about it pertains to its nature. For example, that I am human pertains to my nature. But that I have black hair, read philosophy, and have a quarter in my pocket pertain to my nature as well. Now, the pluralistic monist thinks this, not on general grounds (e.g., a theory according to which a things nature is what explains its conditions of individuation), but rather on grounds provided by the demands of natural integration. To naturally integrate a thing is to understand it, not in isolationfor example, as a logical subject of predication to be related at a later stage to other beingsbut so to speak as one location at which the history of the natural world unfolds. What it is, in other words, is inseparable from its place in nature as a whole. The pluralistic monist understands this claim quite directly: when, as natural integrators, we x our gaze on some particular localea particular natural phenomenonand try to understand its nature, our aim is to understand what nature is like at this locale. When we consider what it would take to fully understand somethings place in nature in this sense, any of the truths about it play a role. In fact, this is exactly how we treat natural beings when we do natural science. Of course, because our scientic knowledge is, at any given stage, quite limited, not all facts about a natural being necessarily strike us as illuminating, so that we think that some of them can go unheeded in our scientic accounts. For example, it might seem momentous
12. My answer to this question owes a great deal to a series of articles from Sarah Coolidge, material from which will appear in her forthcoming dissertation From Concept to Cosmos as well as to discussions leading up to an article I have coauthored with her and Joseph Almog: Life without Essence: Man as a Force of Nature (forthcoming in Perspectives in Metaphysics from Oxford University Press), as well as to conversations with Andrew Hsu about the notion of somethings nature in Spinoza and Wittgenstein. The original inspiration for these thoughts lay in Joseph Almogs highly suggestive claim that for Spinoza, the nature of x is nature (the natural world as a whole) at x. Almog develops his interpretation of Spinozas view that natural beings are nite modes of substance/God/nature. 13. A classic discussion of essence that proceeds according to the former interpretation being-a-necessity-of-x as necessary and sufcient for being part of xs essenceis Saul Kripkes Naming and Necessity. An example of the view that xs essence contains some but not all of the things that are necessarily true of it can be found in Kit Fines Essence and Modality, Philosophical Perspectives 8 (1994): 116.

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that I am human but trivial that I have two quarters in my pocket. Further, any particular investigation of nature concerns itself with a relatively small number of questions, and so we attend to a limited set of facts about a thing to answer the questions we want to answer. Thus, if we are psychologists asking questions about human cognition, it might seem momentous that I can do arithmetic but trivial that I have black hair. However, both of these observations concern ways in which the task of natural integration is being tackled by nite creatures who cannot take a Gods-eye view on the worldwe human beings.14 The spirit of scientic inquiry, though, is to think that at the end of the day, every fact about a natural being is relevant for understanding what it is. Scientists are those strange folks who burrow into things and concern themselves with facts about them that in everyday life can seem trivial. And this is, I suggest, because they are guided by the conviction that those aspects of a thing with which we normally concern ourselves are always already insufcient for a full understanding of what it really isof what nature is like here. Scientic investigation can only, of course, broaden our view to a nite extent. But the ideal it aims to approacheven though it is one that cannot be attainedis to have nature as a whole in view with complete clarity. We are now in a position to see one crucial way in which pluralistic monism differs from physicalism in its various guises. For example, the pluralistic monist rejects the demandembraced by reductive physicalismto undertake reductions. That is, we need not try to recover important truths about a natural phenomenon by reducing them to other truths or by reducing the items designated in those truths to other items. For if we embrace her view, we need not take one subset of the concepts we use to express truths about a natural being to be the only concepts we can use to capture its nature, and we need not take one set of properties, kinds, and the like to be the only ones that pertain to its nature. Now, when I say that the pluralistic monist rejects the need for reductions, I do not mean to say she rejects identity truths. Some of the truths we discover about natural beings are undoubtedly identity truths: that Hesperus is Phosphorus, that water is H2O, and so on. But for the pluralistic monist, none of these by itself gives us the nature of something: a kind of nice, neat metaphysical formula for what it is. Rather, each is simply another truth about itone that is added to the stock of truths we build up in order to understand better what it is. A similar point can be extended to other, nonreductive forms of physicalism. For example, pluralistic monism does not entail the falsehood of any claims to the dependence relations prized by supervenience-based physicalists anymore than of the identity claims prized by reductive physicalists. It is simply that such dependence relations do not, for the pluralistic monist, have the special signicance they are often taken to have. Of course, she does take dependence truthsfor example, concerning the dependence of one property or state (say, a so-called mental one) on another (say, a so-called physical property or state)to pertain to the natures
14. This, as I see it, is one of crucial lessons of Spinozas discussion in Letter 32, The Worm in the Blood, in Complete Works, trans. S. Shirley (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2002), 84251.


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of things. But again, this is simply because she takes any truths about natural beings to pertain to their nature. What about the second criterion for being the language of nature? That is, how could ordinary language be the language with which we specify the unity there is among natural phenomena? Earlier, I claimed that the physicalists restriction of the language of nature to physical concepts has a dual motivation. First, the language of nature isat least in the rst instancerestricted to those concepts necessary for specifying the uniform order of nature. Second, the physicalist understands that order as a transcendent one: an order of natural invariances (say, of natural laws) that determines what any natural phenomenon can be like. In contrast, the pluralistic monist understands the order of nature to be what I will call an immanent order. To understand the relevant notion of immanence, consider again how the pluralistic monist understands the spirit in which natural integrators examine any particular natural being. Trying to understand any such beingme, this bit of carbon, that treeis trying to understand the natural world at some particular location therein. We can illustrate this thought using an analogy. A fact about what I am like at a particular place and timefor example, that I was hungry this morningis a fact about me simpliciter. It is, in particular, a fact about me right now. Likewise, a fact about what nature is like at any particular location therein is a fact about nature as such. It is in this sense that for the pluralistic monist, nature contains structural invariances, and thus, is uniform. Every fact about a natural being is a fact about what nature is like everywhere. It is true of nature here and now on earth that it contains Alpha Centauri and true of nature at Alpha Centauri that it contains me here on earth. Now, we are sometimes wont to think that facts like the two just mentioned represent a kind of second-class truth. What I have said, it might be complained, amounts to saying, for example, that Alpha Centauri is such that I exist. But this, one might think, is a truth borne out of the games we can play with the tools afforded to us by formal logica mere Cambridge property that says nothing of real substance about Alpha Centauri itself. The pluralistic monist can respond that a confusion is at work in this objection. First of all, this objection misconstrues the force of the claim she is makingwhich is not that Alpha Centauri, considered in isolation, is such that I exist, but rather irreducibly concerns nature as a whole. True, when we consider Alpha Centauri, nite creatures that we are, we are often forced to attend only to facts about it that manifest themselves when we look in its direction. But as scientists of nature xed on understanding nature as such, this connement of our attention is in the service of understanding nature as a whole. And the existence of meor any other human beingis crucial for understanding Alpha Centauris place therein. For example, the carbon that is caught up in the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen cycles by means of which Alpha Centauri produces the inferno of radiation it emits is the very same carbon that in me is caught up in vital processes, actions, and thought. And these factsthat carbon here in this distant star is one and the same carbon that makes possible something so strikingly differenthuman life, action,

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and mindis of paramount importance.15 We sometimes overlook this to defend metaphysical hobby horsessay, a distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic properties through which we can cling to the intelligibility of considering beings in isolation from each other. But such hobby horses are, I suggest, very distant from the project of natural integration. How, then, does the pluralistic monist understand the invariance, uniformity, and unity of nature differently from the physicalist? The physicalist, she will say, xates on one class of natural invariances to the exclusion of another. For the pluralistic monist, that is, any fact about any natural being is what we can call an invariance facta fact about the structural invariances of nature, and thus one that tells us a way in which nature is uniform. But there are two kinds of invariance factswhat I will call locally manifested facts and globally manifested facts. We can illustrate this distinction by considering the following example. It is true of me that I have a heart. But this is not a fact that needs be manifest when we, for example, look into my skull. Nevertheless, it is true of the very thing we are looking at when we look into my skullnamely methat it has a heart. Now, it is also true of me that I am made of molecules. But in contrast to my having a heart, this is something that is true of me through and through: No matter what bit of me you look at, you will nd molecules there. Analogously, a locally manifested fact concerns what nature is like everywhere. But the fact that it is true of nature hereat Alpha Centaurithat it contains me need not be manifest when we are looking at Alpha Centauri. A globally manifested fact, in contrast, is something true of nature through and throughit is manifested at every natural locale. The kinds of order or structure specied by the most general natural laws, for example, are globally manifested facts. Every natural phenomenon whatsoever manifests the kind of order they specify. This is just another way of saying that each acts in accordance with those laws. Now, the physicalist takes globally manifested facts to be the only ones that pertain to understanding the uniform natural order. From the perspective of the pluralist monist, this ignores the natural invariances that are only manifested locallywhich are equally facts about nature as such. This is perhaps understandable. We begin as students of nature bafed by its vast diversity. For all we can tell, it can seem like a chaotic disarray of phenomena. To quell this sense, we look for something to hold the seeming disarray together. As we investigate nature, we discover more and more facts about it that manifest themselves everywhere we look. As these discoveries become increasingly sophisticated, we canonize such invariances in more and more general natural laws and principles. In them, we nd something to settle our uneasea set of facts philosophers frequently take to have a special metaphysical statusthat is, to constitute an abstract order that gathers together the diversity of nature by xing prior to the unfolding of its history what any natural phenomenon can be.
15. The foregoing observations grew out of conversations with Christopher Frey and out of thinking about his article From Blood to Flesh: Homonymy, Unity, and Ways of Being in Aristotle (unpublished manuscript).


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The pluralist monist, in contrast, takes our starting point as knowers merely as a necessary artifact of our nite minds. That is, for her, there is no disarray to gather togetheronly the appearance thereof. Thus, while she takes the very same facts as the physicalist to reveal to her the structure and order of nature as such, she looks to much else besides. In particular, she looks to the very facts that inspired the sense of disarray to begin with. Now, I said earlier that the pluralist monist retains a commitment, not just to invariance and uniformity in nature but also to natural unity. The difference between her and the physicalist is that while the latter thinks that natural uniformity engenders natural unity, the pluralist monist thinks that natural unity engenders natural uniformity. For her, the physicalists view smacks of an important mistake: a way of mistaking an epistemic order for an ontological one. Epistemically speaking, we begin with knowledge of locally manifested facts and work our way to globally manifested ones. But since, as I noted earlier, the latter ease the worries about natural unity with which we begin as knowers, we can easily think that they arein the order of thingsthat which unites the diversity of nature. In contrast, the pluralistic monist takes this to be an artifact of the epistemic path we need to take in the face of seeming disunity in nature. And because of this, she takes both the facts that the physicalist takes to be transcendent and those that are undeniably immanent to manifest the unity of nature. It is not quite right to say that in doing so, she rejects the physical image of nature. By itself, this image is simply a description of nature, provided by the empirical science of physics, in which globally manifested facts are foregrounded for the sake of certain explanatory demands. Her quip is not with the deliverances of physics, natural science in general, or indeed any truth-discovering practice. Rather, it is with a certain perceived demandinspired by the physical image of nature, yes, but cooked up by philosophers: to restrict the range of facts through which the unity and organization of nature are manifestedand consequently, the range of concepts included in the language of nature. So far, I have motivated pluralistic monism and argued that it is a view on which nature is unied, uniform, and pervaded by invariant structures, and thus, that none of these notions lead us inevitably to physicalism. Having done so, I will return to the theme of human exceptionalism. For I also claimed that none of these notions must inspire the exceptionalist reactions to physicalism I have discussed. To see this, we need only ask the question of where pluralistic monism will lead us when we concern ourselves with the nature of human life. On reection, it is evident that the view does not admit of the exceptionalist worries that react to physicalism. On its conception of the language of nature, such worries cannot get a grip. For something need only be true about us to pertain to our nature. And, of course, such truths include all those that are expressive of the exceptional features of us that physicalists sometimes suggest we overlook or reduce. Human beings deliberate and perceive; there is something it is like for them to undergo many episodes in their lives. Human beings act; many of those actions are ripe for moral evaluation, many are not. In many such actions, they are hindered, obstructed, prevented from being who they really take themselves or would like to be; in others, they are none of these things or none to an intolerable

Natural Unity and Human Exceptionalism


degree. The pluralistic monist does not look on any of these things we take to be true about ourselves with a skeptical eye. And this is because her desire to understand our place in nature does not, by itself, lead her to think that we must abandon any of the concepts or terms we use to express truths about human life. I noted earlier that for the pluralistic monist, identities are never to be understood as reductionsidentity claims designed to herd our thinking toward an elite set of concepts at the expense of others; or to one set of items designated by those concepts at the expense of others. And so she can happily embrace the very kinds of claims that ll the exceptionalist with apprehension. I am nothing more than this whizzing system of subatomic particles. Perceiving is nothing over and above the occurrence of certain processes in my physical body. This event of my arm raising is this event of my arms risingno more, no less. But again, for the pluralistic monist, none of these is a reduction. I do not say anything more when I afrm them than I do when I say that the morning star is nothing over and above the evening starthat it is the evening star, no more, no less. Likewise, pluralistic monism casts a different light on the dependence relations so important for defenses of supervenience-based forms of physicalism. Such views typically represent attempts to nd a halfway house between natural unity and human exceptionalism. On the one hand, as I have noted earlier, they seem to satisfy the demand for natural integrationfor example, for the nature of a mental state to depend on its place in nature. On the other hand, insofar as they hold back from espousing the identity claims put forward by reductive physicalists, they nevertheless retain for human life a certain kind of autonomynot complete, but autonomy neverthelessfrom nature. However, such dependence-amidst-nonidentity relations do not have this signicance for the pluralistic monist. For example, for her, demonstrating that having mental property M depends on having so-called physical property P does not in any special sense secure natural integration for M or for the things that possess itany more than the absence of such dependence would secure exemption from nature for M. Neither does Ms numerical distinctness from P secure its autonomy from natureanymore than its numerical identity with P would secure natural integration for it. Pluralistic monism is not a position midway between reductive physicalism and human exceptionalism. Rather, it lies outside this spectrum of views entirely. Attaching such signicance to identity, nonidentity, dependence, lack of dependence, etc. relies on accepting the very kind of thesis that pluralistic monism rejects: that the language of nature is physical languageor more generally, that it must be impoverished in comparison with ordinary language. For the pluralistic monist, the language of nature includes the full repertoire of whatever conceptual or linguistic resources we need to express truths about beings we encounter in the world around us. For these reasons, the commitments to unity, uniformity, and invariance that seem so crucial for the work of natural integration lead us inevitably to neither physicalism nor to the forms of exceptionalism by which we try preserve our convictions about human beings. One of the things that I believe can be seen in the debate between physicalism and its discontents is something that plays itself out in many philosophical contexts. That is, we tend to think that natural integration and


Manuel Mandel Cabrera Jr.

the natural unity it reveals can only be achieved at the expense of robbing us of our expressive resourcesespecially those by means of which we understand ourselves. One tendency I think is at work here is that at various stages of human knowledge, we nd ourselves armed with scientic tools (concepts, principles, methods of investigation) that seem so powerful to reveal to us so much about the world that we are gripped by the thought that we must try to say everything there is to say about natureincluding everything there is to say about ususing those tools. For example, this kind of ambition was surely felt by philosophers in the seventeenth century, who stood in the wake of (and in many cases, helped create) titanic shifts in our understanding of the natural world. But more than this, we are attached to an image of ourselves as outsiders to the nature, strangers who do not quite t in, and this image draws us away from our default nave naturalism. Adopting the pluralistic monism I have outlined, I believe, returns us back to that naturalism. At rst, this might seem like a paradoxical claim. After all, pluralistic monism is a view that tackles metaphysical themes at the largest scale. But in fact, I believe that in it, lofty metaphysical ambition coincides with nave naturalism. For such naturalism is that attitude in which we look at the things in the world around us and innocently take whatever we nd to be a genuine revelation about nature and how it hangs together. In any case, I hope to have shown that pluralistic monism offers us one promising route toward resisting the exceptionalist tendencies in us that at the end of the day anyone committed to natural integration must resist.