This project will focus on the metaphysics of the subject of experiences, that is, on the
nature of entities which can have experiences (including conscious animals as well as
humans). There has been increasing attention paid to different issues relevant to this topic in
recent years, but as of yet there has been no systematic study showing how these issues are
interrelated and how they can be integrated into a substantive account of the nature of the
subject. To fill this gap, we shall propose the following hypothesis: each subject is a
substance, distinct from its body but necessarily embodied, and it is essentially a subject. We
shall provide new arguments in defence of this conception, and also show how it can provide
novel accounts of what it is for a subject to be embodied, to have a perspective on the world,
and for its experiences to be unified. This conception therefore promises to provide a
comprehensive and unified metaphysical account of the subject, which will have important
ramifications for other issues in the philosophy of mind.
In the course of our work we shall address the following Research Questions:
RQ1. To which ontological category does the subject of experience belong, e.g., is it a
substance, a bundle of experiences, a collection of mental capacities, etc?
RQ2. Are the entities which are subjects essentially subjects?
RQ3. What is the metaphysical nature of embodiment, i.e., what is it, metaphysically
speaking, for a subject to be embodied?
RQ4. What is the nature of the subject‟s first-person perspective?
RQ5. What is the metaphysical relation between the subject of experiences and the unity of
The hypotheses we wish to defend regarding the research questions are as follows: the
subject is a substance (RQ1) and each subject is essentially a subject (RQ2). A subject can be
embodied to different degrees, and this can be accounted for on a view which takes each
subject to be an emergent individual (RQ3). We shall distinguish several different senses in
which a subject has a perspective and investigate their interrelation; for instance, we shall
suggest that the sense of being located at a specific point in space and time requires having a
unique perspective on one‟s own experiences in a way which does not allow for reduction in,
e.g., functional terms (RQ4). A subject‟s experiences are unified in a significant way simply
by belonging to that subject, and this unity cannot be reductively explained (RQ5).
A more detailed outline of the project can be found at https://www.donnchadhoconaill.com/uploads/1/2/5/2/125288904/the_subject_of_experiences_project_outline.pdf