By definition zombies would be physically and behaviourally just like us, but not conscious. This currently very influential idea is a threat to all forms of physicalism, and has led some philosophers to give up physicalism and become dualists. It has also beguiled many physicalists, who feel forced to defend increasingly convoluted explanations of why the conceivability of zombies is compatible with their impossibility. Robert Kirk argues that the zombie idea depends on an incoherent view of the nature of phenomenal (...) consciousness.His book has two main aims. One is to demolish the zombie idea once and for all. There are plenty of objections to it in the literature, but they lack intuitive appeal. He offers a striking new argument which reveals fundamental confusions in the implied conception of consciousness. His other main contribution is to develop a fresh and original approach to the true nature of phenomenal consciousness. Kirk argues that a necessary condition is a 'basic package' of capacities. An important component of his argument is that the necessary cognitive capacities are not as sophisticated as is often assumed. By focusing on humbler creatures than ourselves he avoids some of the distracting complications of our sophisticated forms of cognition.The basic package does not seem to be sufficient for phenomenal consciousness. What is also needed is 'direct activity' - a special feature of the way the events which constitute incoming perceptual information affect the system. This is an integrated process, to be conceived of holistically, and contrasts sharply with what is often called the 'availability' or 'poisedness' of perceptual information.This original, penetrating, and highly readable book will be of interest to all who have a serious concern with the nature of consciousness: not only professional philosophers and students, but also many psychologists and neuroscientists. (shrink)
Seeking a scientific basis for understanding and treating mental illness, and inspired by the work of Ivan Pavlov, American physiologists, psychiatrists and psychologists in the 1920s turned to nonhuman animals. This paper examines how new constructs such as “experimental neurosis” emerged as tools to enable psychiatric comparison across species. From 1923 to 1962, the Cornell “Behavior Farm” was a leading interdisciplinary research center pioneering novel techniques to experimentally study nonhuman psychopathology. Led by the psychobiologist Howard Liddell, work at the Behavior (...) Farm formed part of an ambitious program to develop new preventative and therapeutic techniques and bring psychiatry into closer relations with physiology and medicine. At the heart of Liddell’s activities were a range of nonhuman animals, including pigs, sheep, goats and dogs, each serving as a proxy for human patients. We examine how Pavlov’s conceptualization of ‘experimental neurosis’ was used by Liddell to facilitate comparison across species and communication between researchers and clinicians. Our close reading of his experimental system demonstrates how unexpected animal behaviors and emotions were transformed into experimental virtues. However, to successfully translate such behaviors from the animal laboratory into the field of human psychopathology, Liddell increasingly reached beyond, and, in effect, redefined, the Pavlovian method to make it compatible and compliant with an ethological approach to the animal laboratory. We show how the resultant Behavior Farm served as a productive “hybrid” place, containing elements of experiment and observation, laboratory and field. It was through the building of close and more naturalistic relationships with animals over extended periods of time, both normal and pathological, and within and outside of the experimental space, that Liddell could understand, manage, and make useful the myriad behavioral complexities that emerged from the life histories of experimental animals, the researchers who worked with them, and their shared relationships to the wider physical and social environments. (shrink)
In 1942 a coalition of twenty scientific societies formed the Conference on the Supply of Experimental Animals in an attempt to pressure the Medical Research Council to accept responsibility for the provision of standardised experimental animals in Britain. The practice of animal experimentation was subject to State regulation under the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876, but no provision existed for the provision of animals for experimental use. Consequently, day-to-day laboratory work was reliant on a commercial small animal market which (...) had emerged to sustain the hobby of animal fancying. This paper explores how difficulties encountered in experimental practice within the laboratory led to the problematisation of biomedical science’s reliance upon a commercial market for animals during the inter-war period. This is shown to have produced a crisis within animal reliant experimental science in the early 1940s which enabled the left-wing Association of Scientific Workers to cast science’s reliance on a free market as economically inefficient and a threat to the reliability of British research. It is argued that the development of standard experimental animals in Britain was, therefore, embedded within the wider cultural, societal, political and economic national context of the time. (shrink)
Suppose P is the conjunction of all truths statable in the austere vocabulary of an ideal physics. Then phsicalists are likely to accept that any truths not included in P are different ways of talking about the reality specified by P. This ‘redescription thesis’ can be made clearer by means of the ‘strict implication thesis’, according to which inconsistency or incoherence are involved in denying the implication from P to interesting truths not included in it, such as truths about phenomenal (...) consciousness. Commitment to the strict implication thesis cannot be escaped by appeal to a posteriori necessary identities or entailments. A minimal physicalism formulated in terms of strict implication is preferable to one based on a priori entailment. (shrink)
If zombies were conceivable in the sense relevant to the ‘conceivability argument’ against physicalism, a certain epiphenomenalistic conception of consciousness—the ‘e-qualia story’—would also be conceivable. But the e-qualia story is not conceivable because it involves a contradiction. The non-physical ‘e-qualia’ supposedly involved could not perform cognitive processing, which would therefore have to be performed by physical processes; and these could not put anyone into ‘epistemic contact’ with e-qualia, contrary to the e-qualia story. Interactionism does not enable zombists to escape these (...) conclusions. (shrink)
Our thoughts about the world are clearly influenced by such things as point of view, temperament, past experience and culture. However, some thinkers go much further and argue that everything that exists depends on us, arguing that 'even reality is relative'. Can we accept such a claim in the face of events such as floods and other natural disasters or events seemingly beyond our control? 'Realists' argue that reality is independent of out thinking. 'Relativists' disagree, arguing that what there is (...) depends on our point of view. Which is right? Robert Kirk provides a crystal clear account of this debate from the Greek philosophers to Wittgenstein and Rorty. Along the way, he unpacks some of the more complicated issues surrounding ideas of objectivity, subjectivity, pragmatism and realism essential for those beginning any study of philosphy. (shrink)
Philosophical zombies are exactly as physicalists suppose we are, right down to the tiniest details, but they have no conscious experiences. (It is presupposed that all explicable physical events are explicable physically.) Are such things even logically possible? My aim is to contribute to showing not only that the answer is 'No', but why. (I concede that systems superficially like human beings might exist and lack consciousness.) My strategy has two prongs: a fairly brisk argument which demolishes the zombie idea; (...) followed by an attempt to throw light on how something can qualify as a conscious perceiver. The argument to show that zombies are impossible exploits the point that in order to be able to detect our own 'qualia' we should have to be somehow sensitive to them; which the zombie idea rules out. The attempt to make clear why my zombie twin must be conscious exploits the idea that we have a reasonably clear grasp of a 'Basic Package' of psychological concepts. (shrink)
Kim maintains that a physicalist has only two genuine options, eliminativism and reductionism. But physicalists can reject both by using the Strict Implication thesis (SI). Discussing his arguments will help to show what useful work SI can do.(1) His discussion of anomalous monism depends on an unexamined assumption to the effect that SI is false.
In the philosophy of mind, zombies often make an appearance. It seems we can conceive of zombies — beings physically exactly like ourselves but lacking conscious experience. There may not actually be any zombies, of course. But the suggestion that they could exist does at least seem to make sense. Or does it? Robert Kirk investigates.
I have argued that a strong kind of physicalism based on the strict implication thesis can consistently reject both eliminativism and reductionism (in any nontrivial sense). This piece defends that position against objections from Andrew Melnyk, who claims that either my formulation doesn't entail physicalism, or it must be interpreted in such a way that the mental is after all reducible to the physical. His alternatives depend on two interesting assumptions. I argue that both are mistaken, thereby, making this kind (...) of nonreductive physicalism clearer and more clearly defensible. (shrink)
Philosophical zombies are exactly as physicalists suppose we are, right down to the tiniest details, but they have no conscious experiences. Are such things even logically possible? My aim is to contribute to showing not only that the answer is 'No', but why. My strategy has two prongs: a fairly brisk argument which demolishes the zombie idea; followed by an attempt to throw light on how something can qualify as a conscious perceiver. The argument to show that zombies are impossible (...) exploits the point that in order to be able to detect our own 'qualia' we should have to be somehow sensitive to them; which the zombie idea rules out. The attempt to make clear why my zombie twin must be conscious exploits the idea that we have a reasonably clear grasp of a 'Basic Package' of psychological concepts. (shrink)
Sydney Shoemaker thinks the ‘most revealing characterization of physicalism’ is in terms of realization . He offers a meticulously worked out account of physical realization and goes on to apply it to a range of major topics: mental causation, personal identity, emergence, three-dimensional versus four-dimensional accounts of temporal persistence, qualia. 1 He also discusses constitution by micro-entities, functional properties, causation by ‘second-order’ properties, ‘phony’ and ‘genuine’ properties, and whether mental properties strongly supervene on physical ones. Several parts of the book (...) are devoted to criticizing Jaegwon Kim's views, especially in his Physicalism, or Something Near Enough .I shall concentrate on three main issues: whether, as Shoemaker claims, his official view of physical realization provides for a ‘constitutive link’ between the realizer and what it realizes; whether his account is a ‘revealing’ characterization of physicalism; and his discussions of transposed and ‘alien’ qualia. Let me remark that numerous potential objections are treated with sophistication and subtlety. At several places, this makes for difficult reading . It also means I shall usually be simplifying the views I attribute to him. (shrink)