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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

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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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
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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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

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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Jaeger,Lydia. Against Physicalism-plus-God
2012, Faith and Philosophy , 29, 295-312
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Added by: Laura Jimenez

Abstract: It is often assumed that contemporary physics is more hospitable to divine action (and human freedom) than classical mechanics. The article criticizes this assumption on the grounds of both physics and theology. Most currently discussed models of divine action do not challenge the physicalist assumption that physics provides a true and complete description of nature’s causal web. Thus they resemble physicalism-plus-God. Taking up suggestions from Herman Dooyeweerd and Henri Blocher, I propose an alternative framework for divine action in the world. It takes creation as the starting-point to understand the world and leads to a non-reductionist, multidimensional picture of reality

Comment: Good article for undergraduate students. It is valuable for studying the relation between science and divinity.

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Jaegwon, Kim. The myth of non-reductive materialism
2003, Proceedings and Adresses of the American Philosophical Association 63(3): 31:47.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez

Summary: This article explores the idea that we can assuage our physicalist qualms by embracing “ontological physicalism”, the claim that all that exists in space-time is physical, but, at the same time, accept “property dualism”, a dualism about psychological and physical attributes, insisting that psychological concepts or properties form an irreducible, autonomous domain. The issue the author explores is whether or not a robust physicalist can, consistently and plausibly, swear off reductionism – that is, whether or not a substantial form of physicalism can be combined with the rejection of psycho-physical reduction. The author argues that a middle-of-the road position of the sort just described is not available. More specifically, he claim that a physicalist has only two genuine options, eliminativism and reductionism.

Comment: This is a very important paper for both philosophy of mind and philosophy of science. Previous knowledge of key concepts such supervenience, physicalism or reductionism is needed to fully understand the paper. It is then more suitable for postgraduate students.

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

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. Chalmers’ zombie argument
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

Introduction: In the late twentieth century, zombies began to play an important role in philosophical discussions about consciousness. But unlike the zombies of Hollywood, philosophical zombies are very much alive – or at least, they would be were they to exist. As philosophers use the term, a zombie is a creature that is microphysically identical to a human being – and thus produces behavior that is indistinguishable from that of a normal human being – but lacks any sort of consciousness in the phenomenal sense. Zombies behave as if they are in pain when you stick them with a pin, and they will report that they are in pain, but they don ‘ t experience any painful sensations.

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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

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.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Kind, Amy. Pessimism About Russellian Monism
2015, Torin Alter & Yujin Nagasawa (eds.), Consciousness in the Physical World: Perspectives on Russellian Monism: 401-421
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Greg Miller

Abstract: From the perspective of many philosophers of mind in these early years of the 21st Century, the debate between dualism and physicalism has seemed to have stalled, if not to have come to a complete standstill. There seems to be no way to settle the basic clash of intuitions that underlies it. Recently however, a growing number of proponents of Russellian monism have suggested that their view promises to show us a new way forward. Insofar as Russellian monism might allow us to break out of the current gridlock, it’s no wonder that it’s become ‘hot stuff.’ To my mind, however, the excitement about Russellian monism is misplaced. Though some version of Russellian monism might well be true, I do not believe that it enables us to break free of the dualism/physicalism divide. As I will argue, once we properly understand what’s required to flesh out an adequate monistic story, we will see that we are in an important way right back where we started.

Comment: This text is a criticism of the view known as Russellian Monism. The text highlights that the physicalism/dualism dichotomy remains even in this 'alternative' view. The text is intermediate because it requires students to understand the complexity of the debate leading up to this paper. The paper itself is very accessible.

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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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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

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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