The necessity of conceivability

Synthese 200 (2):1-18 (2022)


In his conceivability argument, Chalmers assumes that all properties have their causal powers contingently and causal laws are also contingent. We argue that this claim conflicts with how conceivability itself must work for the conceivability argument to be successful. If conceivability is to be an effective mechanism to determine possibility, it must work as a matter of necessity, since contingent conceivability renders conceivability fallible for an ideal reasoner and the fallible conceivability of zombies would not entail their possibility. But necessary conceivability must either be governed by necessitating causal processes or by a necessitating non-causal mechanism. We argue that the latter option is untenable or mysterious; whereas, if Chalmers chooses the former and applies it only to conceivability, his solution is ad hoc, but if he accepts necessary causal powers or processes generally, the conceivability argument fails. We conclude that, as it stands, the Conceivability Argument does not establish that physicalism is false.

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,856

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

17 (#642,616)

6 months
17 (#49,582)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Javier Cumpa
Complutense University of Madrid
Sophie R. Allen
Keele University

References found in this work

Epiphenomenal Qualia.Frank Jackson - 1982 - Philosophical Quarterly 32 (April):127-136.
Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness.David Chalmers - 1995 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (3):200-19.
From an Ontological Point of View.John Heil - 2003 - Oxford University Press.

View all 40 references / Add more references

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Hume on Knowledge of Metaphysical Modalities.Daniel Dohrn - 2010 - History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis 13.
Conceiving What is Not There.Andrew Botterell - 2001 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 8 (8):21-42.
Introduction: Conceivability and Possibility.Tamar Szabó Gendler & John Hawthorne - 2002 - In T. Szabó Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 1--70.
Panpsychism, Conceivability, and Dualism Redux.Hane Htut Maung - 2019 - Synthesis Philosophica 34 (1):157-172.