Though most contemporary philosophers and scientists accept a physicalist view of mind, the recent surge of interest in the problem of consciousness has put the mind /body problem back into play. The physicalists' lack of success in dispelling the air of residual mystery that surrounds the question of how consciousness might be physically explained has led to a proliferation of options. Some offer alternative formulations of physicalism, but others forgo physicalism in favour of views that are more dualistic or that (...) bring in mentalistic features at the ground- floor level of reality as in pan-proto-psychism. My aim here is to give an overview of the recent philosophic discussion to serve as a map in locating issues and options. I will not offer a comprehensive survey of the debate or mark every important variant to be found in the recent literature. I will mark the principal features of the philosophic landscape that one might use as general orientation points in navigating the terrain. I will focus in particular on three central and interrelated ideas: those of emergence, reduction, and nonreductive physicalism. The third of these, which has emerged as more or less the majority view among current philosophers of mind, combines a pluralist view about the diversity of what needs to be explained by science with an underlying metaphysical commitment to the physical as the ultimate basis of all that is real. The view has been challenged from both left and right, on one side from dualists and on the other from hard core reductive materialists. Despite their differences, those critics agree in finding nonreductive physicalism an unacceptable and perhaps even incoherent position. They agree as well in treating reducibility as the essential criterion for physicality; they differ only about whether the criterion can be met. Reductive physicalists argue that it can, and dualists deny it. (shrink)
Consciousness and self-awareness seem intuitively linked, but how they intertwine is less than clear. Must one be self-aware in order to be consciousness? Indeed, is consciousness just a special type of self-awareness? Or perhaps it is the other way round: Is being self-aware a special way of being conscious? Discerning their connections is complicated by the fact that both the main relata themselves admit of many diverse forms and levels. One might be conscious or self- aware in many different ways (...) or respects, and to varying degrees. Thus the real questions of linkage must be posed more specifically. We need to ask not whether the two are bound in general, but whether and how being conscious in some specific sense and degree relates to some particular sort of self-awareness. Only those more specific questions are likely to have fully determinate answers. (shrink)
For more than three decades John Searle has been developing and elaborating a unified theory of language and mind. What has emerged is an impressive and detailed account of intentionality embracing both mental states and linguistic behaviour. Though the developing theory has been presented in a steady stream of books and articles over the last thirty years, two items stand out as major landmarks: the publication of Speech Acts in 1969 and of Intentionality in 1983. Both of these seminal books (...) offer structural theories; that is, they analyze the items within their domains as having a structure which allows for variation along a number of parameters. John Searle and His Critics proceeds from an analysis of the importance and influence of these two works to an overall assessment of Searle's impact in the philosophy of language, of mind, of social explanation, and of reference and intentionality. Each of the chapters has been newly commissioned from a leading scholar in the relevant field and each section concludes with a summary and response from Searle himself. (shrink)
If the phenomenality of consciousness admits of degrees and can be partial and indeterminate, then Block's inference to the best explanation may need to be revaluated both in terms of the supposed data on phenomenal overflow and the range of alternatives against which his view is compared.
Subjective consciousness and self-representation Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-9 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9765-7 Authors Robert Van Gulick, Department of Philosophy, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
A general characterization of functionalist theories of mind is offered and a number of issues are discussed which allow for alternative versions of functionalism. Some issues, such as the distinction between the implicit definition and partial specification views are of a general nature, while others raise questions more specific to functionalism, such as whether the relation between psychological and physiological properties is one of identity or instantiation. Section II attempts to undermine several arguments which have been offered to support the (...) non-identity position. In the final section, the suggestions that the relevant notions of functional equivalence might be unpacked solely in terms of abstract automata features or entirely in terms of causal relations to nonintentionally characterized behavior are shown to be inadequate. (shrink)
In “Absent Qualia and the Mind-Body Problem,” Michael Tye (2006) presents an argument by which he claims to show the inconceivability of beings that are functionally equivalent to phenomenally conscious beings but lack any qualia. On that basis, he concludes that qualia can be fully defined in functional terms. The argument does not suffice to establish the claimed results. In particular it does not show that such absent qualia cases are inconceivable. Tye’s argument relies on a principle P according to (...) which the exchange of isomorphic states between functionally equivalent systems will preserve their equivalence. If they were functionally equivalent before the exchange, they will also be so after. Consideration of the contextual nature of realization shows that Principle P is not a general truth as Tye claims, and his argument against the possibility of absent qualia thus fails. (shrink)
O'Brien & Opie unfairly restrict the classicist's range of options for explaining phenomenal consciousness. Alternative approaches that rely upon differences among representation types offer better prospects of success. The authors rely upon two distinctions: one between symbol processing and connectionist models, the other between process and vehicle models. In this context, neither distinction may be as clear as they assume.
The isomorphism constraint places plausible limits on the use of third-person evidence to explain color experience but poses no difficulty for functionalists; they themselves argue for just such limits. Palmer's absent qualia claim is supported by neither the Color Machine nor Color Room examples. The nature of color experience depends on relations external to the color space, as well as internal to it.