A Dialogue on Consciousness

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-01-13
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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What is consciousness? Is it a physical or a non-physical phenomenon? If it is physical, why does it elude scientific explanation? If it is not physical, how can it be explained? A Dialogue on Consciousness introduces readers, in dialogue form, to the problem of consciousness; it explores the main arguments for and against physicalism - the view that consciousness is entirely physical - and the several levels of debate surrounding those arguments. The dialogue takes place ina university library, after hours, where the two protagonists, impoverished graduate students Tollens and Ponens, sleep in lieu of proper accomodations. Through the course of five nights and a Saturday morning, they quote key passages from classic and contemporary texts while discussing the majortheories on the subject: Frank Jackson's knowledge argument, philosophical "zombies," the inverted spectrum, epiphenomenalism, neutral monism, panpsychism, the problem of mental causation, the ability hypothesis, the phenomenal concept strategy, and more. The dialogue ends with the studentscontemplating the merits and drawbacks of modern physicalist views and non-physicalist alternatives.While A Dialogue on Consciousness is an entertaining and accessible introduction to some of the most complicated issues in contemporary philosophy, it does not forego rigor. Arguements and responses are precisely formulated and discussed in non-technical terms. Positions are considered with the carethat they receive in professional literature. An expansive, categorized and annotated Reading Suggestions list is included at the end of the book to direct readers to the most relevant and helpful primary sources.Ideal for courses on the philosophy of mind and on consciousness, the book provides a thorough, up-to-date orientation to the debate about consciousness and physicalism.

Table of Contents

Monday Night
Late night in the Library
The Subjectivity of Experience
The Soul and The Mind
Descartes' Conceivability Argument
Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Superman
Arnauld's Objection to Descartes' Argument
Hume's Elusive SelfSouls and the Problem of Mental-Physical Causation
Tuesday Night
Computers and Cognition
Consciousness versus Cognition
Ignoring Subjectivity
What is it Like to be a Bat?
The Need for a New Framework
Mary and The Knowledge Argument against Physicalism
Spectrum Inversion
Zombies and the Conceivability Argument against Physicalism
Wednesday Night
The Structure of the Anti-Physicalist Arguments: the Epistemic Step and the Metaphysical Step
Questioning the Epistemic Step
Afterimages and Mary's Shortcuts to Phenomenal Knowledge
The Importance of Deduction
Psycho-Physical Laws
Hooking Up to the Physical
The Objectivity Condition on the Physical
Deduction and Translation
The Ability Hypothesis
The Connection between Abilities and Information
The Transparency of Experience and Representationalism
Thursday Night
Questioning the Metaphysical Step
Superheroes and the Many Disguises of Physical Facts
Disguise Depends on Ignorance
The Cognitive Isolation of Phenomenal Concepts
Martian Mary and the Phenomenal Concept Strategy
Do Phenomenal Concepts Require Experience?
The Dilemma for the Phenomenal Concept Strategy
Descartes Returns, with Zombies
Friday Night
Clarifying Property Dualism
Why Souls are No Help
The Causal Inefficacy of Non-Physical Qualia
Assessing the Costs of Epiphenomenalism
The Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment
The Attractions of Monism
Saturday Night
Phenomenal Properties as the Ground of Physical Dispositions
The Combination Problem
The Problem of Mental-Physical Causation Redux
The Significance of Ignorance
Defining the Physical
Subjective Physicalism
Necessitation without Deduction
The Sun Rises
Sources of Quotations
Reading Suggestions
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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