Philosophy Glossary

a priori

“For Kant a concept is a priori just in case its source is the understanding of the subject and not sensory experience (A80/B106; Strawson 1966: 86)” (Stanford para 1).

a posteriori

Boundary Problem

Opposite of the Combination problem. Made famous by Gregg Rosenberg (a panpsychic) who talks about it as the “boundary problem for individual experiencing subjects.” If what exists as mind is a field, how is it subdivided into individual experiencing subjects? Why is there not just one mind. Look at Rosenberg, G. (2004). A Place for Consciousness. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.~p.77-90

Kastrup: sounds like he is describing nous “Before its first alter ever formed, TWE experienced only thoughts. There were no perceptions. The formation of the first alter then demarcated a boundary separating the experiences within the alter from those outside the alter (all of which were, of course, still within TWE). This newly formed boundary is what enabled perceptions to arise: the thoughts surrounding the alter stimulated its boundary from the outside, which in turn impinged on the alter’s internal dynamics. What we call perception is the experience of this impingement.” p74

Combination Problem

Opposite of the Boundary problem. Made famous by Chalmers. If what exists as conscious is fundamentally particulate, how do the particles combine to produce macro-level consciousness. EG, how do conscious electrons and protons combine to become conscious neurons, conscious brains?

Explanatory Power

The capacity of an idea to explain data, observations, facts and so on. The more something explains the more power it has. Philosophers and sciences like ideas with explanatory power. The history of science is riddled with paradigm shifts that occurred because of increases in explanatory power.

Extended Mind

Associated with Andy Clark.

Free Energy Principle

Made famous by Karl Friston, this principle is inexplicably named. It is almost impossible to deduce why he calls it free energy. Its connection to energy, as normally understood in physics, is unclear. It would have been better to call it uncertainty minimization principle, since what he seems to mean is that organisms seek to minimize their uncertainty. When Friston says “free energy” it seems that we are meant to think to ourselves “uncertainty.”

Hylomorphism: see

Markov Blanket

stub: Kastrup’s notion of alters in idealism, by way of which he explains how an individual human consciousness can separate itself from the universal mind, seems very closely connected to the notion of Markov blankets. Here’s Kastrup’s image:

Materialism (see Physicalism)

Parsimony, Principle of

Comes out of epistemology. It’s a shmancy way of talking about Occam’s or Ockham’s razor. It’s the principle that you should always choose the simplest, least complex explanation for something. So for example Kastrup says that idealism is the most parsimonious explanation of the facts of consciousness. Parsimony claims help settle arguments.


Associated with David Armstrong’s 1993 A materialist theory of mind.


Often qualified as an ontological primitive – see primitive, ontological). In philosophy a primitive has nothing to do with the anthropological or psychological or cultural imperialist notions of primitive, eg as “less developed” than supposedly civilized people. In those contexts primitive is said condescendingly. But in philosophy primitives are treated with the utmost respect; they are the most important things, and in a certain sense are the only things. In philosophy a primitive means something like “foundational” or “building block” or “original” or “fundamental” or “primary” or “irreducible” or “basic” or “elementary” or “irreducible.” Primitives are the bare minimum of what God would need to create to produce the world. Primitives are the basic blocks out of which you create a theory or model. You can’t break primitives apart. Primitives have no internal structure. Primitives don’t have insides. Primitives are fundamental, you can’t go beneath them. So for example strings in string theory are primitives. Letters in the English language are primitives. Note that strings are ontological primitives because they “exist” independently, they exist in-themselves, while letters are not ontological primitives because they are products of human thought and don’t have an independent existence “in themselves.”

Primitive, ontological

See primitive for more. An ontological primitive is a subtype of primitive that exists. These are contrasted with primitives generally, which may not exist in themselves. For example, you could say that money is the primitive of an economy, but money doesn’t exist in itself.