Physicalism, or Something Near Enough

Princeton University Press
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Contemporary discussions in philosophy of mind have largely been shaped by physicalism, the doctrine that all phenomena are ultimately physical. Here, Jaegwon Kim presents the most comprehensive and systematic presentation yet of his influential ideas on the mind-body problem. He seeks to determine, after half a century of debate: What kind of (or "how much") physicalism can we lay claim to? He begins by laying out mental causation and consciousness as the two principal challenges to contemporary physicalism. How can minds exercise their causal powers in a physical world? Is a physicalist account of consciousness possible?

The book's starting point is the "supervenience" argument (sometimes called the "exclusion" argument), which Kim reformulates in an extended defense. This argument shows that the contemporary physicalist faces a stark choice between reductionism (the idea that mental phenomena are physically reducible) and epiphenomenalism (the view that mental phenomena are causally impotent). Along the way, Kim presents a novel argument showing that Cartesian substance dualism offers no help with mental causation.

Mind-body reduction, therefore, is required to save mental causation. But are minds physically reducible? Kim argues that all but one type of mental phenomena are reducible, including intentional mental phenomena, such as beliefs and desires. The apparent exceptions are the intrinsic, felt qualities of conscious experiences ("qualia"). Kim argues, however, that certain relational properties of qualia, in particular their similarities and differences, are behaviorally manifest and hence in principle reducible, and that it is these relational properties of qualia that are central to their cognitive roles. The causal efficacy of qualia, therefore, is not entirely lost.

According to Kim, then, while physicalism is not the whole truth, it is the truth near enough.

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About the author

Jaegwon Kim is William Herbert Perry Faunce Professor of Philosophy at Brown University. His previous books include Mind in a Physical World, Philosophy of Mind, and Supervenience and Mind.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Dec 3, 2007
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Pages
200
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ISBN
9781400840847
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / Mind & Body
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The relation between subjective consciousness and the physical brain is widely regarded as the last mystery facing science. This book argues that there is no real puzzle here. Consciousness seems mysterious, not because of any hidden essence, but only because we think about it in a special way. David Papineau exposes the resulting potential for confusion, and shows that much scientific study of consciousness is misconceived. Modern physical science strongly supports a materialist account of consciousness. But there remains considerable resistance to this, both in philosophy and in the way most people think about the mind; we fall back on a dualist view, that consciousness is not part of the material world. Papineau argues that resistance to materialism is groundless. He offers a detailed analysis of the way human beings think about consciousness, and in particular the way in which we humans think about our conscious states by activating those selfsame states. His careful account of this distinctive mode of phenomenal thinking enables him, first, to show that the standard arguments against dualism are unsound, second, to explain why dualism is nevertheless so intuitively persuasive, and third, to expose much contemporary scientific study of consciousness as resting on a confusion. In placing a materialist account of consciousness on a firm foundation, this clear and forthright book lays many traditional problems to rest, and offers escape from immemorial misconceptions about the mind.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • This exquisite memoir by an idealistic young neurosurgeon asks What makes a life worth living? and makes a profound graduation gift—especially for aspiring doctors and nurses.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times Book Review • People • NPR • The Washington Post • Slate • Harper’s Bazaar • Esquire • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly • BookPage

Finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Books for a Better Life Award in Inspirational Memoir

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

Praise for When Breath Becomes Air

“I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option. . . . Part of this book’s tremendous impact comes from the obvious fact that its author was such a brilliant polymath. And part comes from the way he conveys what happened to him—passionately working and striving, deferring gratification, waiting to live, learning to die—so well.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“An emotional investment well worth making: a moving and thoughtful memoir of family, medicine and literature. It is, despite its grim undertone, accidentally inspiring.”—The Washington Post

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“Devastating and spectacular . . . [Kalanithi] is so likeable, so relatable, and so humble, that you become immersed in his world and forget where it’s all heading.”—USA Today
This Festschrift seeks to honor three highly distinguished scholars in the Department of Philosophy, University of Michigan: William K. Frankena, Charles L. Stevenson, and Richard B. Brandt. Each has made significant con tributions to the philosophic literature, particularly in the field of ethics. Michigan has been fortunate in having three such original and productive moral philosophers serving ob its faculty simultaneously. Yet they stand in a long tradition of excellence, both within the Department and in the University. Let us trace that tradition briefly. The University of Michigan opened in 184l.lts Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts at first resembled a typical American college ofthat period, with religious and ethical indoctrination playing a central role in course offerings. But when Henry Tappan, a Presbyterian clergyman and Professor of philosophy, became President in 1852, he succeeded in shifting the emphasis from indoctrination to inquiry and scholarship. Though he was dismissed for his policies in 1863, Tappan's efforts to establish a broad and liberal curriculum prevailed. Michigan was to take its place among the leading educational institutions in this country, and to achieve an international reputation as a research center. Several past philosophers are worthy of mention here. George Sylvester Morris, an absolute idealist, joined the Department in 1881, having served from 1870 as Chairman of the Department of Modern Languages and Literature. He assumed the Chairmanship of Philosophy in 1884.
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