An Analysis of the Problem of the Irreducibility of the Mind

Dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo (2004)

The problem of the irreducibility of the mind can be distinguished into two types. One is causal irreducibility; the other is phenomenal irreducibility, which results in the problem of consciousness. According to Davidson's argument and the problem of free will, we can see that the mental is causally irreducible to the physical. Based on Jackson's, Nagel's, and Searle's arguments, the mental is phenomenally irreducible to the physical. ;In this dissertation, I analyze these arguments and some important theories of how to deal with these problems. In addition, I argue that the Nagel-Searle expansionist thesis is on the right track towards a solution to the problem of the irreducibility of the mind. The main point in the expansionist thesis is that what we understand about the mental and the physical are basically correct but not enough. We need to expand our understandings of the mental and the physical to find a necessary connection between them. This necessary connection will break the absolute distinction between subjectivity and objectivity to form a new conceptual framework, which will be the solution to the problem of the irreducibility of the mind. ;However, I also point out that the expansionist thesis needs to be revised. I call the revised version the unificationist thesis. We can see the main differences between the expansionist thesis and the unificationist thesis from two aspects. One is that the unificationist thesis suggests that the mental and the physical may not be causally reducible but they should be causally unified in another causal structure within a new conceptual framework. The other is that the unificationist thesis suggests that there is a mistaken sense in consciousness that is used in the expansionist thesis. When consciousness is understood as phenomenal properties in general, there is no ontological status for consciousness. Based on this analysis, we can also claim that the complete scientific theory that can thoroughly explain the mind both in the causal and phenomenal respects does not possibly exist
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