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Profile: Tom Polger (University of Cincinnati)
  1. Thomas W. Polger, Physicalism and Cosmic Hermeneutics: Comments on Horgan.
    It is commonly held that there are two obstacles to precisely formulating the doctrine of physicalism: Hempel’s Problem, and Hume’s Problem.2 Hempel’s Problem is that if physicalism is to be formulated in terms of physics—or in terms of any science, for the problem is fully general if it is a problem at all—whether to use the current or future science. If physicalism is formulated in terms of current physics, then it is most likely false because current physics is at least (...)
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  2. Thomas W. Polger, Functionalism.
    Saying that psychological states are functional states, the functionalist claims more than that psychological states have functions. Rather, functionalism is the theory that psychological states are defined and constituted by their functions. On this view, what it is to be a psychological state of a certain sort just is and consists entirely of having a certain function. Anything that has that function in a suitable system would therefore be that psychological state. If storing information for later use is the essential (...)
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  3. Thomas W. Polger, Informative Title Here.
    To what degree must the brains and bodies of creatures with minds have to be similar to the brains and bodies of human beings? Since the late 1960’s, most philosophers and cognitive scientists have supposed that there a relatively few constraints on what sorts of brains and bodies can realize minds. It is widely believed that minds are multiply realizable. Of course there were always dissenters, and in recent years their grumbling has grown harder to dismiss. In The Mind Incarnate (...)
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  4. Thomas W. Polger, Review of Drew Khlentozos' Naturalistic Realism and the Antirealist Challenge. [REVIEW]
    Drew Khlentozos’ Naturalistic Realism and the Antirealist Challenge is a meticulous introduction and roadmap to the core arguments of the contemporary realism/antirealism debate. It has several features that I especially admire. The book is carefully argued and for the most part clearly written. Rare among recent writers in Anglo-American philosophy, Khlentzos is a charitable reader of his opponents and earnestly endeavors to present their views as clearly and generously as possible. This generosity and thoroughness are also the book’s main fault, (...)
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  5. Thomas W. Polger, Review of Shapiro's The Mind Incarnate. [REVIEW]
    To what degree must the brains and bodies of creatures with minds have to be similar to the brains and bodies of human beings? Since the late 1960’s, most philosophers and cognitive scientists have supposed that there a relatively few constraints on what sorts of brains and bodies can realize minds. It is widely believed that minds are multiply realizable. Of course there were always dissenters, and in recent years their grumbling has grown harder to dismiss. In _The Mind_ _Incarnate_, (...)
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  6. Thomas W. Polger, Some Metaphysical Anxieties of Reductionism.
    By now it is cliché to observe that so-called reductionism is not one mammoth doctrine. There are, as it were, many reductionisms. Needless to say, there are at least as many antireductionisms. Despite the fact that neither reductionisms nor their counterparts are single and unified doctrines there do seem to be some family resemblances. One, it seems to me, is that both reductionisms and antireductionisms are acute responses to certain metaphysical worries. Some of these worries are metaphysical in nature, (...)
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  7. Thomas W. Polger, Toward a Distributed Computation Model of Extended Cognition.
    In the early years of the 1990s, a number of philosophers and cognitive scientists became enthused about the idea that mental states are spatially and temporally distributed in the brain, and that this has significant consequences for philosophy of mind. Daniel Dennett (1991), for example, appealed to the spatial and temporal distribution of cognitive processes in the brain in order to argue that there is no unified place where or time when consciousness occurs in the brain. Dennett used this interim (...)
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  8. Thomas W. Polger, What the Tortoise Dreamt.
     
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  9. Thomas W. Polger & Robert A. Skipper, Naturalism, Explanation, and Identity.
    Some people believe that there is an “explanatory gap” between the facts of physics and certain other facts about the world—for example, facts about consciousness. The gap is presented as a challenge to any thoroughgoing naturalism or physicalism. We believe that advocates of the explanatory gap have some reasonable expectations that cannot be merely dismissed. We also believe that naturalistic thinkers have the resources to close the explanatory gap, but that they have not adequately explained how and why these resources (...)
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  10. Thomas W. Polger & Kenneth J. Sufka, Closing the Gap on Pain.
    A widely accepted theory holds that emotional experiences occur mainly in a part of the human brain called the amygdala. A different theory asserts that color sensation is located in a small subpart of the visual cortex called V4. If these theories are correct, or even approximately correct, then they are remarkable advances toward a scientific explanation of human conscious experience. Yet even understanding the claims of such theories.
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  11. Robert A. Skipper & Thomas W. Polger, Naturalism, Explanation, and Identity.
    Some people believe that there is an “explanatory gap” between the facts of physics and certain other facts about the world—for example, facts about consciousness. The gap is presented as a challenge to any thoroughgoing naturalism or physicalism. We believe that advocates of the explanatory gap have some reasonable expectations that cannot be merely dismissed. We also believe that naturalistic thinkers have the resources to close the explanatory gap, but that they have not adequately explained how and why these resources (...)
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  12. Douglas Keaton & Thomas W. Polger (2014). Exclusion, Still Not Tracted. Philosophical Studies 171 (1):135-148.
    Karen Bennett has recently articulated and defended a “compatibilist” solution to the causal exclusion problem. Bennett’s solution works by rejecting the exclusion principle on the grounds that even though physical realizers are distinct from the mental states or properties that they realize, they necessarily co-occur such that they fail to satisfy standard accounts of causal over-determination. This is the case, Bennett argues, because the causal background conditions for core realizers being sufficient causes of their effects are identical to the “surround” (...)
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  13. Thomas W. Polger (2014). DAVID J. CHALMERSConstructing the World. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (2):419-423.
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  14. Thomas W. Polger (2013). Realization and Multiple Realization, Chicken and Egg. European Journal of Philosophy 21 (1).
    A common view is that the truth of multiple realization—e.g., about psychological states—entails the truth of functionalism. This is supposed to follow because what is multiply realized is eo ipso realized. I argue that view is mistaken by demonstrating how it misrepresents arguments from multiple realization. In particular, it undermines the empirical component of the arguments, and renders the multiplicity of the realization irrelevant. I suggest an alternative reading of multiple realizability arguments, particularly in philosophy of psychology. And I explain (...)
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  15. Thomas W. Polger (2012). Metaphysics of Mind. In Robert Barnard Neil Manson (ed.), Continuum Companion to Metaphysics.
    The enduring metaphysical question about minds and mental phenomena concerns their nature. At least since Descartes this question—the mind-body problem—has been understood in terms of the viability or necessity of mind-body dualism, the thesis that minds and bodies are essentially distinct kinds of substance. Assuming that the nonmental (‘body’) portions of the world are constituted of physical stuff, the remaining question is: Are minds or mental phenomena essentially distinct non-physical substances, or phenomena that essentially involve such distinct kinds of substances? (...)
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  16. Lawrence A. Shapiro & Thomas W. Polger (2012). Identity, Variability, and Multiple Realization in the Special Sciences. In Hill Christopher & Gozzano Simone (eds.), New Perspectives on Type Identity: The Mental and the Physical. Cambridge University Press. 264.
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  17. Thomas W. Polger (2011). Are Sensations Still Brain Processes? Philosophical Psychology 24 (1):1-21.
    Fifty years ago J. J. C. Smart published his pioneering paper, “Sensations and Brain Processes.” It is appropriate to mark the golden anniversary of Smart’s publication by considering how well his article has stood up, and how well the identity theory itself has fared. In this paper I first revisit Smart’s text, reflecting on how it has weathered the years. Then I consider the status of the identity theory in current philosophical thinking, taking into account the objections and replies that (...)
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  18. Thomas W. Polger (2010). Mechanisms and Explanatory Realization Relations. Synthese 177 (2):193 - 212.
    My topic is the confluence of two recently active philosophical research programs. One research program concerns the metaphysics of realization. The other research program concerns scientific explanation in terms of mechanisms. In this paper I introduce a distinction between descriptive and explanatory approaches to realization. I then use this distinction to argue that a well-known account of realization, due to Carl Gillett, is incompatible with a well-known account of mechanistic explanation, due to Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden, and Carl Craver (MDC, (...)
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  19. Thomas W. Polger (2009). Evaluating the Evidence for Multiple Realization. Synthese 167 (3):457 - 472.
    Consider what the brain-state theorist has to do to make good his claims. He has to specify a physical–chemical state such that any organism (not just a mammal) is in pain if and only if (a) it possesses a brain of suitable physical–chemical structure; and (b) its brain is in that physical–chemical state. This means that the physical–chemical state in question must be a possible state of a mammalian brain, a reptilian brain, a mollusc’s brain (octopuses are mollusca, and certainly (...)
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  20. Thomas W. Polger (2009). Identity Theories. Philosophy Compass 4 (5):822-834.
    Identity theories are those that hold that 'sensations are brain processes'. In particular, they hold that mental/psychological state kinds are identical to brain/neuroscientific state kinds. In this paper, I isolate and explain some of the key features of contemporary identity theories. They are then contrasted with the main live alternatives by means of considering the two most important lines of objection to identity theories.
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  21. Thomas W. Polger (2008). ≪b>h≪/B≫≪Sub≫≪B≫2≪/B≫≪/Sub≫≪B>o, 'Water', and Transparent Reduction≪/B≫. Erkenntnis 69 (1):109-130.
    Do facts about water have a priori, transparent, reductive explanations in terms of microphysics? Ned Block and Robert Stalnaker argue that they do not (B&S, 1999). David Chalmers and Frank Jackson argue that they do (C&J, 2001).
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  22. Thomas W. Polger (2008). H2O, 'Water', and Transparent Reduction. Erkenntnis 69 (1):109 - 130.
    Do facts about water have a priori, transparent, reductive explanations in terms of microphysics? Ned Block and Robert Stalnaker hold that they do not. David Chalmers and Frank Jackson hold that they do. In this paper I argue that Chalmers.
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  23. Thomas W. Polger (2008). Two Confusions Concerning Multiple Realization. Philosophy of Science 75 (5):537-547.
    Forthcoming in Philosophy of Science. Despite some recent advances, multiple realization remains a largely misunderstood thesis. Consider the dispute between Lawrence Shapiro and Carl Gillett over the application of Shapiro’s recipe for deciding when we have genuine cases of multiple realization. I argue that Gillett follows many philosophers in mistakenly supposing that multiple realization is absolute and transitive. Both of these are problematic. They are tempting only when we extract the question of multiple realization from the explanatory context in which (...)
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  24. Thomas W. Polger & Lawrence Shapiro (2008). Understanding the Dimensions of Realization. Journal of Philosophy 105 (4):213-222.
    Carl Gillett has defended what he calls the “dimensioned” view of the realization relation, which he contrasts with the traditional “flat” view of realization (2003, 2007; see also Gillett 2002). Intuitively, the dimensioned approach characterizes realization in terms of composition whereas the flat approach views realization in terms of occupiers of functional roles. Elsewhere we have argued that the general view of realization and multiple realization that Gillett advances is not able to discharge the theoretical duties of those relations (Shapiro (...)
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  25. Thomas Polger & Lawrence Shapiro (2008). Comments and Criticism: Understanding the Dimensions of Realization. Journal of Philosophy 105:213-22.
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  26. Thomas W. Polger (2007). Realization and the Metaphysics of Mind. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (2):233 – 259.
    According to the received view in philosophy of mind, mental states or properties are _realized_ by brain states or properties but are not identical to them. This view is often called _realization_ _physicalism_. Carl Gillett has recently defended a detailed formulation of the realization relation. However, Gillett’s formulation cannot be the relation that realization physicalists have in mind. I argue that Gillett’s “dimensioned” view of realization fails to apply to a textbook case of realization. I also argue Gillett counts as (...)
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  27. Thomas W. Polger (2007). Rethinking the Evolution of Consciousness. In Susan Schneider & Max Velmans (eds.), Companion to Consciousness. Blackwell.
    Suppose that consciousness is a natural feature of biological organisms, and that it is a capacity or property or process that resides in a single organ. In that case there is a straightforward question about the consciousness organ, namely: How did the consciousness organ come to be formed and why is its presence maintained in those organisms that have it? Of course answering this question might be rather difficult, particularly if the consciousness organ is made of soft tissue that leaves (...)
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  28. Thomas W. Polger (2006). A Place for Dogs and Trees? Psyche 12 (5):online.
    Rosenberg does not provide arguments for some crucial premises in his argument against physicalism. In particular, he gives no independent argument to show that physicalists must accept the entry-by-entailment thesis. The arguments provided establish weaker premises than those that are needed. As a consequence, Rosenberg.
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  29. Thomas W. Polger (2005). Naturalistic Realism and the Antirealist Challenge. Review of Metaphysics 59 (1):181-183.
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  30. Thomas W. Polger & Kenneth J. Sufka (2005). Closing the Gap on Pain: Mechanism, Theory, and Fit. In Murat Aydede (ed.), Pain: New Essays on its Nature and the Methodology of its Study. Cambridge Ma: Bradford Book/Mit Press.
    A widely accepted theory holds that emotional experiences occur mainly in a part of the human brain called the amygdala. A different theory asserts that color sensation is located in a small subpart of the visual cortex called V4. If these theories are correct, or even approximately correct, then they are remarkable advances toward a scientific explanation of human conscious experience. Yet even understanding the claims of such theories—much less evaluating them—raises some puzzles. Conscious experience does not present itself as (...)
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  31. Kenneth J. Sufka & Thomas W. Polger (2005). Closing the Gap on Pain. In Murat Aydede (ed.), Pain: New Essays on its Nature and the Methodology of its Study. Mit Press.
    A widely accepted theory holds that emotional experiences occur mainly in a part of the human brain called the amygdala. A different theory asserts that color sensation is located in a small subpart of the visual cortex called V4. If these theories are correct, or even approximately correct, then they are remarkable advances toward a scientific explanation of human conscious experience. Yet even understanding the claims of such theories—much less evaluating them—raises some puzzles. Conscious experience does not present itself as (...)
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  32. Thomas Polger (2004). Natural Minds. MIT Press.
    In Natural Minds Thomas Polger advocates, and defends, the philosophical theory that mind equals brain—that sensations are brain processes—and in doing so brings the mind-brain identity theory back into the philosophical debate about consciousness. The version of identity theory that Polger advocates holds that conscious processes, events, states, or properties are type- identical to biological processes, events, states, or properties— a "tough-minded" account that maintains that minds are necessarily indentical to brains, a position held by few current identity theorists. Polger's (...)
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  33. Thomas W. Polger (2004). Neural Machinery and Realization. Philosophy of Science 71 (5):997-1006.
    The view that the relationship between minds and brains can be thought of on the model of software and hardware is pervasive. The most common versions of the view, known as functionalism in philosophy of mind, hold that minds are realized by brains.
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  34. Axel Dietrich, Christopher Gauker, Noel Hendrickson, Jon Kass, Kenneth Livingston, Dan Lloyd, Peter Mandik, Katie McGovern, Thomas Polger & Teed Rockwell (2003). In Addition to Editorial Board Members, the Editors of Brain and Mind Often Call on External Reviewers to Referee Submitted Manuscripts. For Volume 4, the Following Philosophers and Scientists Lent Their Expertise and Time to Referee Papers: Anthony Chemero. Brain and Mind 4 (399).
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  35. Thomas Polger (2002). Putnam's Intuition. Philosophical Studies 109 (2):143 - 170.
    Multiple realizability has recently attracted renewed attention, for example Bickle, 1998; Bechtel and Mundale, 1999; Bechtel and McCauley, 1999; Heil, 1999; and Sober, 1999. Many of these writers revisit the topic of multiple realizability in order to show that some version of a mind-brain identity theory is viable. Although there is much of value in these recent explorations, they do not address the underlying intuitions that have vexed philosophers of mind since Hilary Putnam introduced the concern (1967). I argue that (...)
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  36. Thomas W. Polger (2002). Putnam's Intuition. Philosophical Studies 109 (2):143-70.
    Multiple realizability has recently attractedrenewed attention, for example Bickle, 1998;Bechtel and Mundale, 1999; Bechtel and McCauley,1999; Heil, 1999; and Sober, 1999. Many of thesewriters revisit the topic of multiplerealizability in order to show that someversion of a mind-brain identity theory isviable. Although there is much of value inthese recent explorations, they do not addressthe underlying intuitions that have vexedphilosophers of mind since Hilary Putnamintroduced the concern (1967). I argue that thestandard way of construing multiplerealizability is a much stronger claim thanthat (...)
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  37. Thomas W. Polger & Owen J. Flanagan (2002). Consciousness, Adaptation and Epiphenomenalism. In James H. Fetzer (ed.), Consciousness Evolving. John Benjamins.
  38. Thomas W. Polger, Against the Argument From Functional Explanation.
    There is an argument for functionalism—and _ipso facto_ against identity theory—that can be sketched as follows: We are, or want to be, or should be dedicated to functional explanations in the sciences, or at least the special sciences. Therefore—according to the principle that what exists is what our ideal theories say exists—we are, or want to be, or should be committed to metaphysical functionalism. Let us call this the _argument from functional_ _explanation_. I will try to reveal the motivation for (...)
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  39. Thomas W. Polger, True Colors: A Problem for Tye's Color Realism.
    Michael Tye has recently been a vocal defender of color realism or, as I shall call it, color objectivism. Objectivism about color is the view that color properties are identical to intrinsic physical properties of the surfaces of objects. Subjectivism about color is the denial of color objectivism. Objectivists argue that color claims must be taken at face value. In this paper I forego the usual bickering about whether there are surface reflectance properties that can be identified with colors as (...)
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  40. Thomas W. Polger, Zombies. A Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind.
  41. Thomas W. Polger & Owen J. Flanagan (2001). A Decade of Teleofunctionalism: Lycan's Consciousness and Consciousness and Experience. [REVIEW] Minds and Machines 11 (1):113-126.
  42. Thomas W. Polger (2000). Zombies Explained. In Andrew Brook, Don Ross & David L. Thompson (eds.), Dennett's Philosophy: A Comprehensive Assessment. MIT Press. 259--286.
  43. Thomas W. Polger, Kripke and the Illusion of Contingent Identity.
    Saul Kripke’s (1971, 1972) modal essentialist argument against materialism remains an obstacle to any prospective Identity Theorist. This paper is an attempt to make room for an Identity Theory without dismissing Kripke’s analytic tools or essentialist intuitions. I propose an explanatory model that can make room for the Identity Theory within the constraints of Kripke’s view; the model is based on ideas from Alan Sidelle’s, “Identity and Identity-like” (1992). My model explains the apparent contingency of some scientific identities by appealing (...)
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  44. Owen J. Flanagan & Thomas W. Polger (1998). Consciousness, Adaptation, and Epiphenomenalism. In James H. Fetzer (ed.), Consciousness Evolving. John Benjamins.
  45. Thomas W. Polger (1998). Escaping the Epiphenomenal Trap. Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology.
    I describe a feature of the debate between Functionalists and Anti-Functionalists in philosophy of mind that I call The Epiphenomenal Trap. I argue that the dialectic is a trap because neither side can resolve the central metaphysical issue as it has been put. That is because the debate typically trades in possible explanations. So long as Functionalists and Anti-Functionalists continue to debate whether functionalist explanations are possible, the central metaphysical issue cannot be resolved.
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  46. Thomas W. Polger & Owen J. Flanagan, Explaining the Evolution of Consciousness: The Other Hard Problem.
    Recently some philosophers interested in consciousness have begun to turn their attention to the question of what evolutionary advantages, if any, being conscious might confer on an organism. The issue has been pressed in recent dicussions involving David Chalmers, Todd Moody, Owen Flanagan and Thomas Polger, Daniel Dennett, and others. The purpose of this essay is to consider some of the problems that face anyone who wants to give an evolutionary explanation of consciousness. We begin by framing the problem in (...)
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  47. Owen J. Flanagan & Thomas W. Polger (1995). Zombies and the Function of Consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (4):313-21.
    Todd Moody’s Zombie Earth thought experiment is an attempt to show that ‘conscious inessentialism’ is false or in need of qualification. We defend conscious inessentialism against his criticisms, and argue that zombie thought experiments highlight the need to explain why consciousness evolved and what function(s) it serves. This is the hardest problem in consciousness studies.
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  48. Thomas W. Polger (1995). Zombies and the Function of Consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (4):313-321.
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