Do Conceivability Arguments against Physicalism Beg the Question?

Philosophical Topics 40 (2):71-89 (2012)
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Many well-known arguments against physicalism—e.g., Chalmers’s Zombie Argument and Kripke’s Modal Argument—contend that it is conceivable for there to be physical duplicates of ourselves that have no conscious experiences (or, conversely, for there to be disembodied minds) and also that what is conceivable is possible—and therefore, if phenomenal-physical identity statements are supposed to be necessary, then physicalism can’t be true. Physicalists typically respond to these arguments either by questioning whether such creatures can truly be conceived, or denying that the conceivability of such creatures provides good evidencefor their ‘metaphysical’ possibility. An increasing number of physicalists, however, contest these arguments in a different way, namely, by suggesting that the conceivability premises in these arguments beg the question: one’s ability to conceive of the existence of zombies (or disembodied minds) depends exclusively on what one antecedently believes to be the nature of conscious experience (or the theories of consciousness one tacitly accepts)—and therefore cannot legitimately be used to draw conclusions about whether conscious experiences could be physical states or processes. My aim in this paper is to consider, and raise questions about, (various versions of) this response to the antiphysicalist arguments—and argue that physicalists have more promising ways to disarm them.



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Janet Levin
University of Southern California

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The sense of incredibility in ethics.Nicholas Laskowski - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (1):93-115.

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Deprioritizing the A Priori Arguments against Physicalism.Richard Brown - 2010 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 17 (3-4):47-69.

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