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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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Diaz-Leon, Esa, , . We Are Living in a Material World (And I am a Material Girl)
2008, Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 27 (3):85-101 (2008)
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Abstract: In this paper I examine the question of whether the characterization of physicalism that is presupposed by some influential anti-physicalist arguments, namely, the so-called conceivability arguments, is a good characterization of physicalism or not. I compare this characterization with some alternative ones, showing how it can overcome some problems, and I defend it from several objections. I conclude that any arguments against physicalism characterised in that way are genuine arguments against physicalism, as intuitively conceived.

Comment: Provides a good, clear, explanation of supervenience, and methodically goes through various formulations of physicalism and objections to them. Would be a very good introduction to these issues to set up for an examination of arguments for and against physicalism.

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Gertler, Brie, , . In Defence of Mind-Body Dualism
2007, in Reason and Responsibility 13th edition (Feinberg & Shafer-Landau (eds.)). Wadsworth.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by: Helen De Cruz

Abstract: In this essay, I defend naturalistic dualism. I take, as my starting point, and argument made by Rene Descartes in his Meditations. I expand and defend this argument, drawing on some ideas developed by contemporary philosophers. The expanded argument is, I think, much more powerful than most physicalists recognize. After making my case for dualism, I offer some criticisms of physicalism. The paper will close by defending dualism from the charge that the picture of reality it proves is unacceptably spooky.

Comment: Excellent core reading for an introductory philosophy of mind course introducing dualism. It could be particularly helpful to work through the premises of the disembodiment argument, and ask students which (if any) they consider the most contentious ones. The paper is nicely divided into sections that either mount a particular defence of dualism, or respond to a particular objection to it. It could be a good to consider which of Gertler’s arguments they consider to be the strongest and weakest, and why. This could lead to a very productive discussion.

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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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Kind, Amy, , . Nagel’s “what is it like to be a bat” argument against physicalism
2011, In Michael Bruce & Steven Barbone (eds.), Just the Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Arguments in Western Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by:

Introduction: Physicalism – the claim that everything is physical – has been the dominant position in philosophy of mind since at least the middle of the twentieth century. Nonetheless, physicalism has long been accused of being unable to account satisfactorily for the qualitative or subjective aspect of experience, for example, the reddishness of one ‘ s visual experience of a ripe tomato or the painfulness of one ‘ s tactile experience of a sharp object. Many have charged that it is dif? cult to see how these aspects of experience could be accounted for in solely physical terms. Focusing speci? cally on the experi- ence that a bat has when using its sonar, Thomas Nagel formulated this charge in a particularly powerful way. His argument is designed to show that subjective facts about experience, which are essential to it, cannot be captured in the objective language of physicalism. Although most philoso- phers assume that the argument, if successful, would show that physicalism is false, Nagel himself is careful to claim only that we currently lack the conceptual resources to see how physicalism could be true.

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Montero, Barbara, , . The body problem
1999,
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: It seems that a solution to the body problem, or at least one that helps us to better understand the mind-body problem, is not forthcoming. And I take it this indicates that, at least for the time being, we should focus on questions other than the question ‘Is the mind physical?’ To this end, I would like to suggest a question that, I think, highlights some of the central concerns of both physicalists and dualists. And this is the question of whether the mental is fundamentally non-mental. For it seems that physicalism is, at least in part, motivated by the belief that the mental is ultimately non-mental, that is, that mental properties are not fundamental properties, while a central tenet of dualism, precisely, that they are. Of course the notion of the non-mental is also open ended. And, for this reason, it may be just as difficult to see, what sort of considerations are relevant in determining what counts as non-mental as it is to see what sort of considerations could be relevant in determining what counts as physical. But, of course, this is a project for another paper. One advantage, however, is that, arguably, we do have a grasp of one side of the divide – that is, the mental side. So, perhaps, rather than worrying about whether the mind is fundamentally physical, we should be concerned with whether the mind is fundamentally non-mental. And this, I should mention, is a concern that has little to do with what current physics, future physics, or a final physics says about the world.

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Ney, Alyssa, , . Defining Physicalism
2008, Philosophy Compass 3(5): 1033-1048.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by: Greg Miller

Abstract: This article discusses recent disagreements over the correct formulation of physicalism. Although there appears to be a consensus outside those who discuss the issue that physicalists believe that what exists is what is countenanced by physics, as we will see, this orthodoxy faces an important puzzle now frequently referred to as ‘Hempel’s Dilemma’. After surveying the historical trajectory from Enlightenment-era materialism to contemporary physicalism, I examine several mainstream approaches that respond to Hempel’s dilemma, and the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Comment: A great paper for an intermediate or advanced metaphysics course that provides a clear and accessible overview of physicalism and its history, but also more detailed discussion around the topic. It canvasses contemporary formulations of physicalism and their problems. This text is helpful for students in supplying them with a strong overview of the debate. Set seminar questions could (for example) ask students to outline Hempel’s dilemma, and their preferred response to this dilemma that is discussed by Ney.

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Ney, Alyssa, , . Microphysical Causation and the Case for Physicalism
2016, Analytic Philosophy 57(2): 141-164.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: Physicalism is sometimes portrayed by its critics as a dogma, but there is an empirical argument for the position, one based on the accumulation of diverse microphysical causal explanations in physics, chemistry, and physiology. The canonical statement of this argument was presented in 2001 by David Papineau. The goal of this paper is to demonstrate a tension that arises between this way of understanding the empirical case for physicalism and a view that is becoming practically a received position in philosophy of physics: that microphysics does not support the existence of causal facts (and so does not support causal explanations). Indeed this is a conclusion embraced in recent work by Papineau himself. This paper examines a range of natural ways of avoiding this tension and reconciling the empirical case for physicalism with the rejection of microphysical causation.

Comment: A great paper to use as a core reading in either an advanced undergraduate philosophy of mind course, or a Masters philosophy of mind course. Could teach alongside Papineau’s ‘The Rise of Physicalism’ (2001).

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