Are (Some) Qualophiles Contradicting Themselves?

By Neil Campbell.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

I explore three qualia-based objections to physicalism (spectrum inversion, the knowledge argument, and the appeal to the possibility of zombies) and argue that certain versions of these arguments are deeply inconsistent. The problem I identify is that in their attempt to address certain verificationist concerns they take on contradictory assumptions about the causal efficacy of qualia. In each case the argument requires both that qualia are efficacious and that they are epiphenomenal. I show that the zombie-based argument is better able to respond to this objection but can only do so by appealing to some highly implausible possibilities.

Keywords: Qualia, Epiphenomenalism, Physicalism, Inversion, Zombies, Consciousness

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp.75-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 766.475KB).

Dr. Neil Campbell

Professor, Department of Philosophy, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

My work deals with two central issues in the philosophy of mind. The first explores the problem of consciousness. We are conscious beings, yet we lack an adequate account of how the brain generates consciousness and it seems impossible to explain the subjective character of experience in physical terms. I am particularly interested in what these obstacles to understanding consciousness physically entail about the limits of physicalism—the view that human beings are entirely physical creatures. The second issue is the problem of mental causation. This concerns questions about how thoughts and desires in the mind can result in physical actions involving the body. I recently completed a book in which I argue that nonreductive versions of physicalism offer a viable account of mental causation without lapsing into a pernicious form of epiphenomenalism. A central part of this project involves distinguishing reason-giving as a distinct species of explanation from causal explanation.

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