A Short Argument for Physicalism

Let us suppose that Dave Chalmers is right about consciousness. If he is then what it is like for me to see red will turn out to be a nonphysical property of my brain. As discussed on the last post Dave thinks that phenomenal consciousness correlates with awareness (which is basically accessibility for him). So where P is the complete physical description of some person, say me, and A is a specification of my being aware of, or having access to, some mental state we will have a conditional of the form (P –> A ) that could, I suppose, be known a priori (in principle). But of course Dave thinks that zombies could have A and lack qualitative consciousness. That is why we need something like the principle of structural coherence to connect facts about awareness with qualitative facts. This gives us the conditional (A –> Q) where Q are the usual qualitative facts. These two conditionals collapse to give us (P –> Q). So for the dualist we can in principle deduce qualitative facts from the physical facts via a theory of consciousness (i.e. via the fundamental principles) a priori. But if (P –> Q) is a priori then physicalism is true. One might object that (P –> A) is knowable a priori but (A –> Q) is not since we need to introspect in order to acquire the concepts in Q. But as long as introspection only provides the concepts and does not play a role in the justification of the deduction it is still (in principle) a priori. So Dave isn’t right about consciousness.


2 thoughts on “A Short Argument for Physicalism

  1. I think that Chalmers is going to say that there’s an equivocation over ‘->’ in the two conditionals “P->A” and “A->Q” and thus is blocked the alleged collapse into “P->Q”.

    Another way to put the point: (P->A) is a logical conditional, whereas (A -> Q) holds only as a matter of natural law, not logical necessity.

    I take it that Dave’s discussion of dancing and fading qualia in chip-replacement thought experiments is supposed to support two points: 1. since it’s logically possible for qualia to fade as neurons get swapped for chips, it’s not logically necessary that functional organization is accompanied by a particular qualitative profile. 2. since it’s really weird and implausible that qualia would fade (though not impossible!) it must be a law of nature that they won’t fade.

  2. Hey Pete, thanks for the comment.

    yeah you are right that he is going to deny that A–>Q is not a logical conditional…in fact he does say it in the paper above…I guess I am just too deeply into physicalism for me to see how A–>Q can’t be known a priori (in principle)…so I guess this is nothing more than just restating the intuition I have about Maria…btw this is what got me thinking about mixed zombie worlds.

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