A Dialogue on Consciousness

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-01-13
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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In recent years, the problem of consciousness has developed into one of the most important and hotly contested areas in the philosophy of mind. Many philosophers regard consciousness as an entirely physical phenomenon, yet it seems to elude scientific explanation. On the other hand, viewing consciousness as a nonphysical phenomenon brings up even larger issues. If consciousness is not physical, how can it be explained? Concise, up-to-date, and engaging, A Dialogue on Consciousness explores these issues in depth. It features two main characters, Tollens and Ponens--unemployed graduate students who secretly live in a university library--who bring the debate alive. Tollens and Ponens examine the most significant theories and arguments in the field, quoting key passages from both classic and contemporary texts. Their discussion encompasses an expansive and diverse range of ideas, from those that originated in the Enlightenment up to today's most current perspectives. The dialogue concludes with a consideration of the pros and cons of modern physicalist views and nonphysicalist alternatives. An extensive annotated list of suggested readings directs readers to the most relevant and helpful primary sources. An accessible and entertaining introduction to this complex issue, Dialogue on Consciousness ideal for courses in philosophy of mind and consciousness. It also serves as an excellent supplement to introductory philosophy courses.

Author Biography

Torin Alter is Professor of Philosophy at The University of Alabama. Robert J. Howell is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Southern Methodist University.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Monday Nightp. 1
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 Self
Souls and the Problem of Mental-Physical Causation
Tuesday Nightp. 16
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 Nightp. 36
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
Representationalism and the Transparency of Experience
Thursday Nightp. 56
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 Nightp. 71
Clarifying Property Dualism
Why Souls Are No Help
The Causal Inefficacy of Nonphysical Qualia
Assessing the Costs of Epiphenomenalism
The Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment
The Attractions of Monism
Saturdayp. 85
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
Reading Suggestionsp. 108
Sources of Quotationsp. 112
Indexp. 113
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