Physicalism, the thesis that everything is physical, is one of the most controversial problems in philosophy. Its adherents argue that there is no more important doctrine in philosophy, whilst its opponents claim that its role is greatly exaggerated. In this superb introduction to the problem Daniel Stoljar focuses on three fundamental questions: the interpretation, truth and philosophical significance of physicalism. In answering these questions he covers the following key topics: -/- (i)A brief history of physicalism and its definitions, (ii)what a (...) physical property is and how physicalism meets challenges from empirical sciences, (iii)'Hempel’s dilemma’ and the relationship between physicalism and physics, (iv)physicalism and key debates in metaphysics and philosophy of mind, such as supervenience, identity and conceivability, and (v)physicalism and causality. -/- Additional features include chapter summaries, annotated further reading and a glossary of technical terms, making Physicalism ideal for those coming to the problem for the first time. (shrink)
Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical, or as contemporary philosophers sometimes put it, that everything supervenes on, or is necessitated by, the physical. The thesis is usually intended as a metaphysical thesis, parallel to the thesis attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Thales, that everything is water, or the idealism of the 18th Century philosopher Berkeley, that everything is mental. The general idea is that the nature of the actual world (i.e. the universe and everything in it) conforms (...) to a certain condition, the condition of being physical. Of course, physicalists don't deny that the world might contain many items that at first glance don't seem physical — items of a biological, or psychological, or moral, or social nature. But they insist nevertheless that at the end of the day such items are either physical or supervene on the physical. (shrink)
Ignorance and Imagination advances a novel way to resolve the central philosophical problem about the mind: how it is that consciousness or experience fits into a larger naturalistic picture of the world. The correct response to the problem, Stoljar argues, is not to posit a realm of experience distinct from the physical, nor to deny the reality of phenomenal experience, nor even to rethink our understanding of consciousness and the language we use to talk about it. Instead, we should view (...) the problem itself as a consequence of our ignorance of the relevant physical facts, Stoljar shows that this change of orientation is well motivated historically, empirically, and philosophically, and that it has none of the side effects it is sometimes thought to have. The result is a philosophical perspective on the mind that has a number of far-reaching consequences: for consciousness studies, for our place in nature, and for the way we think about the relationship between philosophy and science. (shrink)
The debate over physicalism in philosophy of mind can be seen as concerning an inconsistent tetrad of theses: if physicalism is true, a priori physicalism is true; a priori physicalism is false; if physicalism is false, epiphenomenalism is true; epiphenomenalism is false. This paper argues that one may resolve the debate by distinguishing two conceptions of the physical: on the theory-based conception, it is plausible that is true and is false; on the object-based conception, it is plausible that is true (...) and is false. The paper also defends and explores the version of physicalism that results from this strategy. (shrink)
A phenomenal concept is the concept of a particular type of sensory or perceptual experience, where the notion of experience is understood phenomenologically. A recent and increasingly influential idea in philosophy of mind suggests that reflection on these concepts will play a major role in the debate about conscious experience, and in particular in the defense of physicalism, the thesis that psychological truths supervene on physical truths. According to this idea—I call it the phenomenal concept strategy —phenomenal concepts are importantly (...) different from other concepts, and arguments against physicalism fatally neglect to take this difference into account. This paper divides the phenomenal concept strategy into a number of different versions, and argues that no version of the strategy is successful. The paper ends by contrasting the phenomenal concept strategy with a rival strategy—I call it the missing concept strategy . I suggest that the missing concept strategy presents a more plausible response to the issues about physicalism and experience. (shrink)
The topic of introspection stands at the interface between questions in epistemology about the nature of self-knowledge and questions in the philosophy of mind about the nature of consciousness. What is the nature of introspection such that it provides us with a distinctive way of knowing about our own conscious mental states? And what is the nature of consciousness such that we can know about our own conscious mental states by introspection? How should we understand the relationship between consciousness and (...) introspective self-knowledge? Should we explain consciousness in terms of introspective self-knowledge or vice versa? Until recently, questions in epistemology and the philosophy of mind were pursued largely in isolation from one another. This volume aims to integrate these two lines of research by bringing together fourteen new essays and one reprinted essay on the relationship between introspection, self-knowledge, and consciousness. (shrink)
This paper defends a novel view of ‘what it is like’-sentences, according to which they attribute certain sorts of relations—I call them ‘affective relations’—that hold between events and individuals. The paper argues in detail for the superiority of this proposal over other views that are prevalent in the literature. The paper further argues that the proposal makes better sense than the alternatives of the widespread use of Nagel’s definition of conscious states and that it also shows the mistakes in two (...) prominent suggestions about the definition when properly understood: first, that it is empty and uninformative, and second, that it leads directly to a substantial claim in the theory of consciousness, namely that an individual is in a conscious state only if the individual is aware of their being in that state. (shrink)
Introspection stands at the interface between two major currents in philosophy and related areas of science: on the one hand, there are metaphysical and scientific questions about the nature of consciousness; and on the other hand, there are normative and epistemological questions about the nature of self-knowledge. Introspection seems tied up with consciousness, to the point that some writers define consciousness in terms of introspection; and it is also tied up with self-knowledge, since introspection is the distinctive way in which (...) we come to know about ourselves and, in particular, about our own conscious mental states, processes and events. Each of these topics – consciousness and self-knowledge – has generated an extensive philosophical literature in its own right. But despite some notable exceptions, the relationship between consciousness and self-knowledge has been curiously neglected and remains poorly understood. Indeed, until quite recently, the sub-fields of philosophy of mind and epistemology were pursued largely in isolation from one another. Recent philosophy of mind has been dominated by metaphysical questions about the nature of consciousness and its place in the physical world, while much less attention has been devoted to questions about the epistemic role of consciousness as a source of knowledge and justified belief. Similarly, recent epistemology has been organized around questions about the nature of knowledge and justified belief, but much of this discussion has developed independently of recent work in philosophy of mind about the nature of consciousness. The impetus behind this volume is to bring together these two lines of research by exploring the nature of introspection, which lies at the intersection between consciousness and self-knowledge. This volume collects fourteen new essays and one reprinted essay in which the interplay between concerns in epistemology and the philosophy of mind is a major focus. (shrink)
1. Introduction In ‘The Refutation of Idealism’, G.E.Moore observed that, "when we try to introspect the sensation of blue, all we can see is the blue: the other element is as if it were diaphanous" (1922; p.25). Many philosophers, but Gilbert Harman (1990, 1996) in particular, have suggested that this observation forms the basis of an argument against qualia, usually called the argument from diaphanousness or transparency.1 But even its friends concede that it is none too clear what the argument (...) from diaphanousness—as I will call it—is (Tye 2000; p.45).2 The purpose of this paper is to formulate the argument, and to assess its merits. My conclusion will be that qualia realists have little to fear from the argument—provided both qualia and diaphanousness are properly understood. (shrink)
Much of contemporary philosophy of mind is marked by a dissatisfaction with the two main positions in the field, standard materialism and standard dualism, and hence with the search for alternatives. My concern in this paper is with two such alternatives. The first, which I will call non-standard materialism, is a position I have defended in a number of places, and which may take various forms. The second, panpsychism, has been defended and explored by a number of recent writers. My (...) main goals are: (a) to explain the differences between these positions; and (b) to suggest that non-standard materialism is more plausible than panpsychism. (shrink)
The exclusion argument is widely thought to put considerable pressure on dualism if not to refute it outright. We argue to the contrary that, whether or not their position is ultimately true, dualists have a plausible response. The response focuses on the notion of ‘distinctness’ as it occurs in the argument: if 'distinctness' is understood one way, the exclusion principle on which the argument is founded can be denied by the dualist; if it is understood another way, the argument is (...) not persuasive. (shrink)
What is the connection between being in a conscious mental state and believing that you yourself are currently in that state? On the one hand, it is natural to think that this connection is, or involves, a necessary connection of some sort. On the other hand, it is hard to know what the nature of this necessary connection is. For there are plausible arguments according to which this connection is not metaphysically necessary, not rationally necessary, and not merely naturally necessary. (...) If these arguments are correct, and if these options are exhaustive, while there is a necessary connection between a conscious state and the belief that you are in it, there is apparently no necessary connection it could be! This paper sets out this problem—the necessary connection problem, I will call it—and defends and explores a novel proposal about how to solve it. (shrink)
“Russellian Monism” is a name given to a family of views in philosophy of mind. The family is exciting because it seems to present an alternative both to materialism and to dualism. After briefly setting out the need for this alternative, I distinguish four different kinds of Russellian Monism (RM), and assess their pros and cons. My own feeling, as will emerge in the final section of the paper, is that only the fourth of these represents a viable version of (...) the view. But my main aim is less to state my feelings than to get clear on the different versions of the view and on what is involved in choosing among them. (shrink)
By distinguishing between pragmatic and semantic aspects of emotivism, and by distinguishing between inflationary and deflationary conceptions of truth conditions, this paper defends emotivism against a series of objections. First, it is not the case (as Blackburn has argued) that emotivism must explain the appearance that moral sentences have truth conditions. Second, it is not the case (as Boghossian has argued) that emotivism presupposes that non-moral sentences have inflationary truth conditions. Finally, it is not the case (as Geach and Blackburn (...) have argued) that emotivism is inconsistent with the validity of certain simple arguments. (shrink)
It is widely held that a successful theory of the mind will be neuroscientific. In this paper we ask, first, what this claim means, and, secondly, whether it is true. In answer to the first question, we argue that the claim is ambiguous between two views--one plausible but unsubstantive, and one substantive but highly controversial. In answer to the second question, we argue that neither the evidence from neuroscience itself nor from other scientific and philosophical considerations supports the controversial view.
The conceivability argument against physicalism1 starts from the prem- ises that: It is conceivable that I have a zombie-twin, i.e., that there is someone who is physically identical to me and yet who lacks phenomenal con- sciousness; and If it is conceivable that I have a zombie-twin, then it is possible that I have a zombie-twin. These premises entail that physicalism is false, for physicalism is the claim—or can be assumed for our purposes to be the claim2—that.
This chapter begins with a putative puzzle between non-reductive physicalism according to which psychological properties are distinct from, yet metaphysically necessitated by, physical properties, and Hume's dictum according to which there are no necessary connections between distinct existences. However, the puzzle dissolves once care is taken to distinguish between distinct kinds of distinction: numerical distinctness, mereological distinctness, and what the chapter calls ‘weak modal distinctness’ and ‘strong modal distinctness’. For each of these notions, it turns out that either it makes (...) no sense according to non-reductive physicalism or else it is unclear whether Hume's dictum is true. The chapter then deploys these distinctions to argue first that unlike the dualist, the non-reductive physicalist can reject the exclusion principle in the causal exclusion argument, and second that emergentism can be distinguished from non-reductive physicalism. (shrink)
According to the deflationary theory of truth, to assert that a statement is true is just to assert the statement itself. For example, to say that ‘snow is white’ is true, or that it is true that snow is white, is equivalent to saying simply that snow is white, and this, according to the deflationary theory, is all that can be said significantly about the truth of ‘snow is white’.
David Lewis argues that believing something is self‐ascribing a property rather than holding true a proposition. But what is self‐ascription? Is it some new mysterious primitive? Is Lewis saying that every belief you have is about you? Several recent authors have suggested that, in the light of these questions, Lewis's theory should be rejected, despite its enormous influence. But this neglects the fact that Lewis makes two relevant proposals about belief: one about belief de se , another about belief de (...) re . It is the second that prompts these questions but the first that is central to his theory. (shrink)
This paper compares and contrasts two conceivability arguments: the zombie argument (ZA) against physicalism, and the perfect actor argument (AA) against behaviourism. I start the paper by assuming that the arguments are of the same kind, and that AA is sound. On the basis of these two assumptions I criticize the most common philosophical suggestions in the literature today about what is wrong with ZA, and what is right in it. I end the paper by suggesting that the comparison between (...) the two arguments makes plausible an epistemic response to ZA according to which the conceivability of a zombie - that is, someone identical to me in all physical respects but different in some phenomenal respect - is being confused with the conceivability of something else, i.e. someone identical to me in physical respects that are epistemically available, but different in some phenomenal respect. (shrink)
According to a reflexive theory of consciousness, a person is in a conscious state only if they are conscious of, or aware of, being in the state. This paper reconsiders the well-known regress objection against theories of this sort, according to which they entail that if you are in one conscious state, you are in an infinity of such states. I distinguish two versions of the reflexive theory, a cognitive version and a phenomenal version, and argue that, while the cognitive (...) version of the reflexive theory may evade the regress objection, this is not the case for the phenomenal version. (shrink)
The exclusion argument is widely thought to put considerable pressure on dualism, if not to refute it outright. We argue to the contrary that, whether or not their position is ultimately true, dualists have a plausible response. The response focuses on the notion of ‘distinctness’ that is employed to distinguish between mental and physical properties: if ‘distinctness’ is understood in one way, the exclusion principle on which the argument rests can be denied by the dualist; if it is understood in (...) another way, the argument is not persuasive. (shrink)
Perhaps more than any other philosopher of mind, Ned Block synthesizes philosophical and scientific approaches to the mind; he is unique in moving back and forth across this divide, doing so with creativity and intensity. Over the course of his career, Block has made groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of intelligence, representation, and consciousness. Blockheads! (the title refers to Block's imaginary counterexample to the Turing test—and to the Block-enthusiast contributors) offers eighteen new essays on Block's work along with substantive and (...) wide-ranging replies by Block. (shrink)
Many people believe that philosophy makes no progress. Members of the general public often find it amazing that philosophers exist in universities at all, at least in research positions. Academics who are not philosophers often think of philosophy either as a scholarly or interpretative enterprise, or else as a sort of pre-scientific speculation. And many well-known philosophers argue that there is little genuine progress in philosophy. Daniel Stoljar argues that this is all a big mistake. When you think through exactly (...) what philosophical problems are, and what it takes to solve them, the pattern of success and failure in philosophy is similar to that in other fields. In philosophy, as elsewhere, there is a series of overlapping topics that determine what the subject is about. In philosophy, as elsewhere, different people in different historical epochs and different cultures ask different big questions about these topics. And in philosophy, as elsewhere, big questions asked in the past have often been solved: Stoljar provides examples. Philosophical Progress presents a strikingly optimistic picture of philosophy - not a radical optimism that says that there is some key that unlocks all philosophical problems, and not the kind of pessimism that dominates both professional and non-professional thinking about philosophy, but a reasonable optimism that views philosophy as akin to other fields. (shrink)
This article explores two consequences of intentionalism. My first line of argument focuses on the impact of intentionalism on the 'hard problem' of phenomenal character. If intentionalism is true, the phenomenal supervenes on the intentional. Furthermore, if physicalism about the intentional is also true, the intentional supervenes on the physical. Therefore, if intentionalism and physicalism are both true, then, by transitivity of supervenience, physicalism about the phenomenal is true. I argue that this transitivity argument is not persuasive, because on any (...) interpretation of its central terms, at least one of its premises is as controversial as its conclusion already is. My second line of argument is about the consequences of intentionalism for the error theory of color perception. I suggest that if intentionalism is true, projectivism must be true also, because under this condition there is no single concept of color that can be used for the qualification of objects as well as for the characterization of experiences. (shrink)
Williamson rejects the stereotype that there is progress in science but none in philosophy on the grounds that it assumes that in science progress consists in the discovery of universal laws and that this assumption is false, since in both science and philosophy progress consists at least sometimes in the development of better models. I argue that the assumption is false for a more general reason as well: that progress in both science and philosophy consists in the provision of better (...) information about dependency structures. (shrink)
Mary is confined to a black-and-white room, is educated through black-and-white books and through lectures relayed on black-and white television. In this way she learns everything there is to know about the physical nature of the world. She knows all the physical facts about us and our environment, in a wide sense of 'physical' which includes everything in completed physics, chemistry, and neurophysiology, and all there is to know about the causal and relational facts consequent upon all this, including of (...) course functional roles. If physicalism is true, she knows all there is to know. For to suppose otherwise is to suppose that there is more to know than every physical fact, and that is just what physicalism denies. … It seems, however, that Mary does not know all there is to know. For when she is let out of the black-and- white room or given a color television, she will learn what it is like to see something red, say. This is rightly described as learning—she will not say “ho, hum.” Hence, physicalism is false. (Jackson 1986, p. 291, Chapter 2, this volume). (shrink)
The aim of this book is to argue that issues in metaphysics—in particular issues about the nature of states and causation—will have a significant impact in philosophy of mind. As Steward puts it: “the category of state has been so grossly misunderstood that some theories of mind which are supposed to encompass entities traditionally regarded as falling under the category, e.g., beliefs and desires, cannot so much as be sensibly formulated, once we are clearer about the nature of states”. According (...) to Steward, there are two different approaches to the metaphysics of states: a view according to which states are events, and a view according to which states are facts. Steward says that many discussions in philosophy of mind proceed on the basis of the first view, and thus proceed on what she calls the particularist approach. Steward argues that the particularist approach is mistaken, that states are facts, and that if we would recognize this, many of the problems and positions in philosophy of mind would disappear. (shrink)
On the self-locating response to the knowledge argument Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9612-2 Authors Daniel Stoljar, Philosophy Program, Research School of Social Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT, 0200 Australia Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
Mary is confined to a black-and-white room, is educated through black-and-white books and through lectures relayed on black-and white television. In this way she learns everything there is to know about the physical nature of the world. She knows all the physical facts about us and our environment, in a wide sense of 'physical' which includes everything in completed physics, chemistry, and neurophysiology, and all there is to know about the causal and relational facts consequent upon all this, including of (...) course functional roles. If physicalism is true, she knows all there is to know. For to suppose otherwise is to suppose that there is more to know than every physical fact, and that is just what physicalis. (shrink)