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Balog, Katalin, , . Conceivability, possibility, and the mind-body problem
1999, Philosophical Review 108 (4):497-528.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: This paper was chosen by The Philosopher’s Annual as one of the ten best articles appearing in print in 2000. Reprinted in Volume XXIII of The Philosopher’s Annual. In his very influential book David Chalmers argues that if physicalism is true then every positive truth is a priori entailed by the full physical description – this is called ‘the a priori entailment thesis – but ascriptions of phenomenal consciousness are not so entailed and he concludes that Physicalism is false. As he puts it, ‘zombies’ are metaphysically possible. I attempt to show that this argument is refuted by considering an analogous argument in the mouth of a zombie. The conclusion of this argument is false so one of the premises is false. I argue at length that this shows that the original conceivability argument also has a false premise and so is invalid.

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Brogaard, Berit, , . The Status of Consciousness in Nature
2015, In Steven Miller (ed.), The Constitution of Phenomenal Consciousness: Toward a science and theory. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
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Added by: Giada Fratantonio, Contributed by:
Abstract: The most central metaphysical question about phenomenal consciousness is that of what constitutes phenomenal consciousness, whereas the most central epistemic question about consciousness is that of whether science can eventually provide an explanation of the phenomenon. Many philosophers have argued that science doesn’t have the means to answer the question of what consciousness is (the explanatory gap) but that consciousness nonetheless is fully determined by the physical facts underlying it (no ontological gap). Others have argued that the explanatory gap in the sciences entails an ontological gap. This position is also known as ‘property dualism’. Here I examine a fourth position, according to which there an ontological gap but no explanatory gap.

 

Comment: In this paper, the author addresses the so-called “explanatory gap”. In a nutshell, the “explanatory gap” refers to the existing difficulty of explaining consciousness in physical terms. The author considers Chalmers’s argument which aims to show that there is a metaphysical gap. She argues that the existence of a metaphysical gap does not entail the existence of an explanatory gap, thereby failing to prevent scientists from discovering the nature of consciousness. Good as background reading on the topic of consciousness, its nature, and on whether we can explain in physicalist terms. The first half of the paper is particularly useful, as the author provides a survey of different theories regarding the link between consciousness and the neurological system.

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Drayson, Zoe, , . The Philosophy of Phenomenal Consciousness
2015, In The Constitution of Phenomenal Consciousness. Amsterdam: pp. 273-292.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: A primer on the philosophical issues relating to phenomenal consciousness, part of a collection of new papers by scientists and philosophers on the constitution of consciousness.

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Gertler, Brie, , . The Knowledge Argument
2005, In The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. MacMillan.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: The definitive statement of the Knowledge Argument was formulated by Frank Jackson, in a paper entitled ‘Epiphenomenal Qualia’ that appeared in The Philosophical Quarterly in 1982. Arguments in the same spirit had appeared earlier (Broad 1925, Robinson 1982), but Jackson’s argument is most often compared with Thomas Nagel’s argument in ‘What is it Like to be a Bat?’ (1974). Jackson, however, takes pains to distinguish his argument from Nagel’s. This entry will follow standard practice in focusing on Jackson’s argument, though I will also describe the main points of alleged similarity and dissimilarity between these two arguments.

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Kim, Jaegwon, , . Physicalism, or Something Near Enough
2005, Princeton University Press.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: Contemporary discussions in philosophy of mind have largely been shaped by physicalism, the doctrine that all phenomena are ultimately physical. Here, Jaegwon Kim presents the most comprehensive and systematic presentation yet of his influential ideas on the mind-body problem. He seeks to determine, after half a century of debate: What kind of (or “how much”) physicalism can we lay claim to? He begins by laying out mental causation and consciousness as the two principal challenges to contemporary physicalism. How can minds exercise their causal powers in a physical world? Is a physicalist account of consciousness possible? The book’s starting point is the “supervenience” argument (sometimes called the “exclusion” argument), which Kim reformulates in an extended defense. This argument shows that the contemporary physicalist faces a stark choice between reductionism (the idea that mental phenomena are physically reducible) and epiphenomenalism (the view that mental phenomena are causally impotent). Along the way, Kim presents a novel argument showing that Cartesian substance dualism offers no help with mental causation. Mind-body reduction, therefore, is required to save mental causation. But are minds physically reducible? Kim argues that all but one type of mental phenomena are reducible, including intentional mental phenomena, such as beliefs and desires. The apparent exceptions are the intrinsic, felt qualities of conscious experiences (“qualia”). Kim argues, however, that certain relational properties of qualia, in particular their similarities and differences, are behaviorally manifest and hence in principle reducible, and that it is these relational properties of qualia that are central to their cognitive roles. The causal efficacy of qualia, therefore, is not entirely lost. According to Kim, then, while physicalism is not the whole truth, it is the truth near enough.

Comment: A great book on the mind-body problem. In addition to presenting Kim’s own view, it does an excellent job explaining the problem, as well as presenting some of the opposing viewpoints clearly and strongly, before providing good objections. Many sections would be useful as part of an examination of the mind-body problem in general.

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Levin, Janet, , . Could love be like a heatwave?: Physicalism and the subjective character of experience
1986, Philosophical Studies 49 (March):245-61.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: We expect there to be a connection between experience and knowledge in many of our ordinary epistemic judgments; this expectation is by no means confined to our knowledge of mental states. Thus, the appeal to a special necessary connection between experience and knowledge of mental states ignores the generality of this phenomenon. More important, however, it takes this phenomenon too seriously: our unreflective expectations about the previous experiences of a person who has knowledge, as I have argued, have little to do with whether these experiences are necessary for knowledge of that sort. Thus, they provide no threat to physicalism, or any other objective theory of mental states. To be sure, it is not hard to see why reductionist theses in the philosophy of mind raise suspicion, as they have often ignored the complexity of our mental lives. In this case, however, the suspicion leads to unwarranted fears about Procrusteans under the bed: it is not the insufficiencies of objectivity, but the vestiges of Empiricism, that suggest that these theories may be inadequate for expressing all the truth about experience that there is.

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Nagasawa, Yujin, , . God and Phenomenal Consciousness: A Novel Approach to Knowledge Arguments
2008, Cambridge University Press.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Tyron Goldschmidt

Publisher’s Note: In God and Phenomenal Consciousness, Yujin Nagasawa bridges debates in two distinct areas of philosophy: the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of religion. First, he introduces some of the most powerful arguments against the existence of God and provides objections to them. He then presents a parallel structure between these arguments and influential arguments offered by Thomas Nagel and Frank Jackson against the physicalist approach to phenomenal consciousness. By appealing to this structure, Nagasawa constructs novel objections to Jackson’s and Nagel’s arguments. Finally, he derives, from the failure of these arguments, a unique metaphysical thesis, which he calls ‘non-theoretical physicalism’. Through this thesis, he shows that although this world is entirely physical, there are physical facts that cannot be captured even by complete theories of the physical sciences.

Comment: Fitting for courses on Philosophy of Religion or Philosophy of Mind
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Nida-Rumelin, Martine, , . Qualia: The Knowledge Argument
2002, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Nora Heinzelmann

Abstract: The knowledge argument aims to establish that conscious experience involves non-physical properties. It rests on the idea that someone who has complete physical knowledge about another conscious being might yet lack knowledge about how it feels to have the experiences of that being. It is one of the most discussed arguments against physicalism.

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Nida-Rumelin, Martine, , . What Mary couldn’t know: Belief about phenomenal states
1995, In Thomas Metzinger (ed.), Conscious Experience. Ferdinand Schoningh. pp. 219–41.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Nora Heinzelmann

Introduction: Everyone familiar with the current mind-body debate has probably heard about Frank Jackson’s neurophysiologist Mary. So I tell her story very briefly. Mary knows everything there is to know about the neurophysiological basis of human colour vision but she never saw colours herself (she always lived in a black-and-white environment). When Mary is finally released into the beauty of the coloured world, she acquires new knowledge about the world and – more specifically – about the character of the visual experiences of others. This appears clear at first sight. In the ongoing philosophical debate, however, there is no agreement about whether Mary really gains new knowledge and about whether this would, if it were so, represent a problem for physicalism. Those who defend the so-called argument from knowledge (or ‘knowledge argument’) think that it does.

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