The grain objection

Philosophy of Science 46 (4):559-589 (1979)
Many philosophers, both past and present, object to materialism not from any romantic anti-scientific bent, but from sheer inability to understand the thesis. It seems utterly inconceivable to some that qualia should exist in a world which is entirely material. This paper investigates the grain objection, a much neglected argument which purports to prove that sensations could not be brain events. Three versions are examined in great detail. The plausibility of the first version is shown to depend crucially on whether one holds a direct or non-direct theory of perception. Only on the latter is this version plausible. An analysis of the second "semantic" version concludes that a materialist description and explanation of the world should not be expected to transparently convey all that would be of interest or importance to human beings. The final version explicitly makes use of Grover Maxwell's non-direct perceptual theory of structural realism. Although a confusion is charged to Maxwell between phenomenal and objective properties, the critical difficulty for the grain objection is its failure to characterize "structure" from a non-percipient point of view. As the grain objection is ultimately found wanting, the real difficulty for materialism crystallizes as its irreconciliability with the mere existence of sentience, which seems to force some sort of emergence upon us
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DOI 10.1086/288896
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