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Antony, Louise, , . The Mental and The Physical
2009, in Robin Le Poidevin (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Metaphysics. Routledge. 555-567
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Added by: Giada Fratantonio, Contributed by:

Summary: In this paper the author addresses physicalism and the problem of whether physicalism can account for consciousness and intentionality of our mental states. After providing a good survey of problems posed by this phenomenon as well as possible physicalist responses, she concludes that there still is no satisfying explanation of how the nature of our mental states fits into an “otherwise physical world”.

Comment: Good as a background introductory reading on the nature of mental states. More precisely, good as introduction on the problem of physicalism and whether it can account for intentionality and consciouness of our mental states.

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Kim, Jaegwon, , . Physicalism, or Something Near Enough
2005, Princeton University Press.
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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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Taylor, Kenneth A., , . Narrow content functionalism and the mind-body problem
1989, Noûs 23(3): 355-72.
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Summary: Narrow content functionalism claims that the contents of beliefs are determined by their causal profile. If two belief tokens are of the same causal type, they are of the same semantic type. However, Taylor argues that de dicto semantic types do not supervene on causal types, due to multiple realizability. He establishes this with the thought experiment of “fraternal twin earth”, where things are functionally identical but molecularily different.

Comment: This paper shows how Putnam’s “twin earth” thought experiment needs to be modified to address narrow content functionalism. Suited to higher-level mind and language courses. Best taught after some more introductory readings on the topic, as those not already familiar with some of the elements may become lost.

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