A philosophical zombie is a being physically indistinguishable from an actual or possible human being, inhabiting a possible world where the _physical_ laws are identical to the laws of the actual world, but which completely lacks consciousness. For zombies, all is dark within, and hence they are, at the most fundamental level, utterly different from us. But, given their definition, this singular fact has no direct implications about the kind of motion, or other physical processes, the zombie will undergo within (...) its own world. Under quite standard physicalist assumptions, such as certain assumptions about the 'initial conditions' of the zombie's world and that of the causal closure of the physical. (shrink)
The metaphysical relation of supervenience has seen most of its service in the fields of the philosophy of mind and ethics. Although not repaying all of the hopes some initially invested in it – the mind-body problem remains stubbornly unsolved, ethics not satisfactorily naturalized – the use of the notion of supervenience has certainly clarified the nature and the commitments of so- called non-reductive materialism, especially with regard to the questions of whether explanations of supervenience relations are required and whether (...) such explanations must amount to a kind of reduction. (shrink)
I want to show that a common and plausible interpretation of what science tells us about the fundamental structure of the world – the ‘scientific picture of the world’ or SPW for short – leads to what I’ll call ‘generalized epiphenomenalism’, which is the view that the only features of the world that possess causal efficacy are fundamental physical features. I think that generalized epiphenomenalism follows pretty straightforwardly from the SPW as I’ll present it, but it might seem that, once (...) granted, generalized epiphenomenalism is fairly innocuous, since its threat is too diffuse to provoke traditional worries about the epiphenomenal nature of mental states. If mental states are epiphenomenal only in the same sense that the putative powers of hurricanes, psyche- delic drugs or hydrogen bombs are epiphenomenal, then probably there is not much to worry about in the epiphenomenalism of the mental. I agree that the epiphenomenalism of hurricanes and the like is manageable, but it will turn out that ensuring manageability requires that mental states have an ontological status fundamentally different from that of hurricanes, drugs and bombs, a status that is in fact inconsistent with the SPW. So I’ll argue that generalized epiphenomenalism does have some seriously worrying consequences after all. (shrink)
Whitehead’s philosophy is of perennial scholarly interest as one of the relatively few really serious attempts at a systematic metaphysics. But unlike almost all major ‘philosophical systems’ it is not merely an historical curiosity, but retains contemporary supporters actively deploying Whitehead’s viewpoint in discussion of a variety of live philosophical problems. Furthermore, Whitehead’s metaphysics is the sole example of a comprehensive philosophical system which aims to take into account the radical transformation of science which occurred at the beginning of the (...) twentieth century with the development of relativity and quantum mechanics, developments with which Whitehead was, as a first rate mathematician, highly familiar. (shrink)
Causation can be regarded from either an explanatory/epistemic or an ontological viewpoint. From the former, emergent features enter into a host of causal relationships which form a hierarchical structure subject to scientific investigation. From the latter, the paramount issue is whether emergent features provide any novel causal powers, or whether the 'go' of the world is exhausted by the fundamental physical features which underlie emergent phenomena. I argue here that the 'Scientific Picture of the World' (SPW) strongly supports the claim (...) that ontological causation is exhausted in the elementary physical features of the world. A method is developed for distinguishing 'emergent ontological causation' from the epistemological emergent explanatory patterns sanctioned by the SPW, and it is argued that the SPW implies that all emergence is mere epistemological emergence. However, this leads to a paradox when applied to consciousness itself, which turns out to be both epiphenomenal and viewpoint dependent. (shrink)
Rosenberg’s general argumentative strategy in favour of panpsychism is an extension of a traditional pattern. Although his argument is complex and intricate, I think a model that is historically significant and fundamentally similar to the position Rosenberg advances might help us understand the case for panpsychism. Thus I want to begin by considering a Leibnizian argument for panpsychism.
Strawson’s case in favor of panpsychism is at heart an updated version of a venerable form of argument I’ll call the ‘intrinsic nature’ argument. It is an extremely interesting argument which deploys all sorts of high caliber metaphysical weaponry (despite the ‘down home’ appeals to common sense which Strawson frequently makes). The argument is also subtle and intricate. So let’s spend some time trying to articulate its general form.
Imagine the day when physics is complete. A theory is in place which unifies all the forces of nature in one self-consistent and empirically verified set of absolutely basic principles. There are some who see this day as perhaps not too distant (e.g. Hawking 1988, Weinberg 1992, Horgan 1996). Of course, the mere possession of this _theory_ of everything will not give us the ability to provide a complete _explanation_ of everything: every event, process, occurrence and structure. Most things will (...) be too remote from the basic theory to admit of explanation in its terms; even relatively small and simple systems will be far too complex to be intelligibly described in the final theory. (shrink)
Roger Penrose is justly famous for his work in physics and mathematics but he is _notorious_ for his endorsement of the Gödel argument (see his 1989, 1994, 1997). This argument, first advanced by J. R. Lucas (in 1961), attempts to show that Gödel’s (first) incompleteness theorem can be seen to reveal that the human mind transcends all algorithmic models of it1. Penrose's version of the argument has been seen to fall victim to the original objections raised against Lucas (see Boolos (...) (1990) and for a particularly intemperate review, Putnam (1994)). Yet I believe that more can and should be said about the argument. Only a brief review is necessary here although I wish to present the argument in a somewhat peculiar form. (shrink)
1 Non-reductive physicalists deny that there is any explanation of mentality in purely physical terms, but do not deny that the mental is entirely determined by and constituted out of underlying physical structures. There are important issues about the stability of such a view which teeters on the edge of explanatory reductionism on the one side and dualism on the other (see Kim 1998). 2 Save perhaps for eliminative materialism (see Churchland 1981 for a classic exposition). In fact, however, while.
Naturalism is supposed to be a Good Thing. So good in fact that everybody wants to be a naturalist, no matter what their views might be1. Thus there is some confusion about what, exactly, naturalism is. In what follows, I am going to be pretty much, though not exclusively, concerned with the topics of intentionality and consciousness, which only deepens the confusion for these are two areas.
Theories of Consciousness provides an introduction to a variety of approaches to consciousness, questions the nature of consciousness, and contributes to current debates about whether a scientific understanding of consciousness is possible. While discussing key figures including Descartes, Fodor, Dennett and Chalmers, the book incorporates identity theories, representational theories, intentionality, externalism and new information-based theories.
Jerry Fodor has recently proposed a new entry into the list of information based approaches to semantic content aimed at explicating the general notion of representation for both mental states and linguistic tokens. The basic idea is that a token means what causes its production. The burden of the theory is to select the proper cause from the sea of causal influences which aid in generating any token while at the same time avoiding the absurdity of everything's being literally meaningful (...) (since everything has a cause). I argue that a detailed examination of the theory reveals that neither burden can be successfully shouldered. (shrink)
I argue that Daniel Dennett's latest book, Consciousness Explained, presents a radically eliminativist view of conscious experience in which experience or, in Dennett's own words, actual phenomenology, becomes a merely intentional object of our own and others? judgments ?about? experience. This strategy of ?intentionalizing? consciousness dovetails nicely with Dennett's background model of brain function: cognitive pandemonium, but does not follow from it. Thus Dennett is driven to a series of independent attacks on the notion of conscious experience, many of which (...) depend upon verificationist premises. I do not directly dispute the appeal to verificationism (though many would, I am sure) but rather aim to show that the sort of verificationist arguments that Dennett employs are fundamentally similar to classical sceptical arguments. The philosophical status of such arguments remains perennially unclear, but none of them produce conviction in their ostensible conclusions. I argue that Dennett's verificationist strategy suffers the same fate. (shrink)
Donald Davidson espouses two fundamental theses about the individuation of mental events. The thesis of causal individuation asserts that sameness of cause and effect is sufficient and necessary for event identity. The thesis of content individuation gives only a sufficient condition for difference of mental events: if e and f have different contents then they are different mental events. I argue that given these theses, psychological externalism--the view that mental content is determined by factors external to the subject of the (...) relevant mental events--entails that the token identity theory is false. (shrink)
Metaphysics of Consciousness , a volume in the series Philosophical Issues in Science , discusses the philosophical issue of the nature of consciousness. William Seager argues that the purely physicalist or materialist view of human consciousness is by no means disproved and is in fact strongly supported by some developments in artificial intelligence. William Seager proceeds by addressing the problems of consciousness that remain even for a minimal physicalism. The particular modes of subjective consciousness that constitute experience threaten a paradigm (...) of scientific understanding, labelled "physical resolution," that prospers in all other realms of inquiry. A phenomenon is physically resolved by demonstrating that its components are made up of purely physical parts and its causal efficacy is grounded in the physical properties of parts. The apparent inability to resolve physical consciousness leaves it not only inexplicable, but inexplicable in a way that threatens even a minimal physicalism. This book is distinctive in its emphasis on the legitimacy of inexplicability and its argument that consciousness transcends the paradigm of physical resolution. It will be of great use to advanced students and lecturers in philosophy. (shrink)
It has been argued that Psychological Externalism is irrelevant to psychology. The grounds for this are that PE fails to individuate intentional states in accord with causal power, and that psychology is primarily interested in the causal roles of psychological states. It is also claimed that one can individuate psychological states via their syntactic structure in some internal "language of thought". This syntactic structure is an internal feature of psychological states and thus provides a key to their causal powers. I (...) argue that in fact any syntactic structure deserving the name will require an external individuation no less than the semantic features of psychological states. (shrink)
THIS ARTICLE ARGUES THAT WEAK SUPERVENIENCE IS\nSUFFICIENTLY STRONG TO ESTABLISH A REASONABLE AND PLAUSIBLE\nMATERIALISM. SUPERVENIENCE IS A RELATION BETWEEN FAMILIES\nOF PROPERTIES, SUCH THAT, ROUGHLY SPEAKING, FAMILY A\nSUPERVENES ON FAMILY B IF ANY OBJECTS WHICH ARE\nINDISCERNIBLE WITH RESPECT TO B ARE THEREBY INDISCERNIBLE\nWITH RESPECT TO A. WEAK SUPERVENIENCE IS SUPERVENIENCE\nRESTRICTED TO ONE POSSIBLE WORLD; STRONG SUPERVENIENCE IS A\n"NECESSARY" SUPERVENIENCE EXTENDING ACROSS SOME PRINCIPLED\nSET OF POSSIBLE WORLDS. THESE NOTIONS ARE MADE SOMEWHAT\nMORE RIGOROUS FOLLOWING JAEGWON KIM'S DEVELOPMENT OF THEM.\nKIM HAS ARGUED THAT ONLY (...) STRONG SUPERVENIENCE CAN GROUND A\n'ROBUST' MATERIALISM, SO THE ARTICLE BEGINS BY CRITICIZING\nHIS ARGUMENTS FOR THIS POSITION. IT ARGUES THAT ANY FORM OF\nSTRONG SUPERVENIENCE IS IN FACT TOO STRONG TO CHARACTERIZE\nMATERIALISM AS IT IS NORMALLY CONCEIVED, FOR MATERIALISM IS\nNEITHER LOGICALLY NOR PHYSICALLY NECESSARY. BUT THE DAY IS\nSAVED AS WEAK SUPERVENIENCE CAN BE SHOWN TO BE JUST\nSUFFICIENTLY STRONG TO GROUND MATERIALISM. IN PARTICULAR,\nIT IS SHOWN THAT SUPERVENIENCE CAN SUPPORT COUNTERFACTUALS\nWITHOUT REQUIRING ANY NOTION OF "NECESSARY"\nSUPERVENIENCE. (shrink)