Been There/ Done That

Saturday, October 14, 2006

On Zombies

Ok, I will say a bit more about my thesis.

Where were we? Yes, I said the other day that conceivability arguments aim to refute physicalism? How? Well, physicalism is committed to the claim that any possible world that is physically identical to the actual world must be identical in all respects. One version of conceivability arguments is the Zombie Argument. It starts by suggesting that we can conceive of a possible world that is physically identical to the actual one, molecule per molecule, but where no-one is conscious, that is, everyone is a Zombie (they lack phenomenal states). The first premise of the argument claims that this is a conceivable scenario, that is, there is no contradiction in the description of such a world. From this, it is inferred that such a world is indeed possible. Then, it follows that there is at least a possible world physically identical to the actual one, which differs in other respects, namely, with respect to the phenomenal facts. So physicalism would be false.

My focus in my thesis is on the inference from conceivability to possibility. I argue that this inference is not warranted. In particular as I said the other day I explore and defend two strategies: the exceptionalist and the non-exceptionalist. The non-exceptionalist strategy argues that the conceivability-to-possibility inference is wrong in general: for all cases of sentences, for all domains, it is wrong to infer from the conceivability of S that S is possible. Exceptionalists, on the other hand, claim that the conceivability-to-possibility inference is ok in most cases, unless phenomenal concepts are involved. In particular, when we have sentences that involve both physical and phenomenal concepts, since these two are so radically different, any inference from conceivability to possibility is going to be unreliable. The burden of this strategy is to explain what the relation between physical and phenomenal concepts is, such that it brings about this exceptional feature.

Well, this is a very brief introduction! More is forthcoming in the near future...


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