Reductive explanation, concepts, and a priori entailment

Philosophical Studies 155 (1):99-116 (2011)
Authors
Esa Diaz-Leon
University of Barcelona
Abstract
In this paper I examine Chalmers and Jackson’s defence of the a priori entailment thesis, that is, the claim that microphysical truths a priori entail ordinary non-phenomenal truths such as ‘water covers 60% of the Earth surface’, which they use as a premise for an argument against the possibility of a reductive explanation of consciousness. Their argument relies on a certain view about the possession conditions of macroscopic concepts such as WATER, known as ascriptivism. In the paper I distinguish two versions of ascriptivism: reductive versus non-reductive ascriptivism. According to reductive ascriptivism, competent users of a concept have the ability to infer truths involving such concept from lower-level truths, whereas according to non-reductive ascriptivism, all that is required in order to be a competent user of a concept is to be able to infer truths involving that concept from other truths, which need not be lower-level truths. I argue, first, that the a priori entailment thesis is committed to reductive ascriptivism, and secondly, that reductive ascriptivism is problematic because it trivializes the notion of a priori knowledge. Therefore, I conclude that Chalmers and Jackson have not presented a convincing case for the claim that microphysical truths entail ordinary non-phenomenal truths a priori, especially when we understand this claim in the sense that is relevant for their argument against the possibility of a reductive explanation of consciousness
Keywords David Chalmers  Frank Jackson  Reductive explanation  Conceptual analysis  Phenomenal consciousness  A priori knowledge
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9560-x
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References found in this work BETA

Purple Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness.Joseph Levine - 2001 - Oxford University Press USA.
On Leaving Out What It's Like.Joseph Levine - 1993 - In Martin Davies & Glyn W. Humphreys (eds.), Consciousness: Psychological an Philosophical Essays. MIT Press. pp. 543--557.
Purple Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness.A. Byrne - 2002 - Philosophical Review 111 (4):594-597.

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Citations of this work BETA

Physicalism.Justin Tiehen - 2018 - Analysis 78 (3):537-551.
Phenomenal, Normative, and Other Explanatory Gaps: A General Diagnosis.Neil Mehta - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
Blocking the A Priori Passage.Andreas Elpidorou - 2014 - Acta Analytica 29 (3):285-307.
How to Explain the Explanatory Gap.Neil Mehta - 2013 - Dialectica 67 (2):117-135.

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