Physicalism, or Something Near Enough

Physicalism, or Something Near Enough

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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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Product details

  • Paperback | 200 pages
  • 140 x 216 x 15.24mm | 255g
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • 3 line illus.
  • 0691133859
  • 9780691133850
  • 374,083

Back cover copy

"This is a fine volume that clarifies, defends, and moves beyond the views that Kim presented in Mind in a Physical World. Chapter by chapter, it is philosophically interesting and engagingly written."--Karen Bennett, Princeton University
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Table of contents

Preface xi Synopsis of the Arguments 1 CHAPTER 1: Mental Causation and Consciousness: Our Two Mind-Body Problems 7 Mental Causation and Consciousness 8 The Supervenience/Exclusion Argument 13 Can We Reduce Qualia? 22 The Two World-Knots 29 CHAPTER 2: The Supervenience Argument Motivated, Clarified, and Defended 32 Nonreductive Physicalism 33 The Fundamental Idea 36 The Supervenience Argument Refined and Clarified 39 Is Overdetermination an Option? 46 The Generalization Argument 52 Block's Causal Drainage Argument 57 CHAPTER 3: The Rejection of Immaterial Minds: A Causal Argument 70 Cartesian Dualism and Mental Causation 72 Causation and the "Pairing" Problem 78 Causality and Space 85 Why Not Locate Souls in Space? 88 Concluding Remarks 91 CHAPTER 4: Reduction, Reductive Explanation, and Closing the "Gap" 93 Reduction and Reductive Explanation 95 Bridge-Law Reduction and Functional Reduction 98 Explanatory Ascent and Constraint (R) 103 Functional Reduction and Reductive Explanation 108 Kripkean Identities and Reductive Explanation 113 Remarks about Block and Stalnaker's Proposal 117 CHAPTER 5: Explanatory Arguments for Type Physicalism and Why They Don't Work 121 Are There Positive Arguments for Type Physicalism? 123 Hill's and McLaughlin's Explanatory Argument 126 Do Psychoneural Identities Explain Psychoneural Correlations? 131 Block and Stalnaker's Explanatory Argument 139 Another Way of Looking at the Two Explanatory Arguments 146 CHAPTER 6: Physicalism, or Something Near Enough 149 Taking Stock 150 Physicalism at a Crossroads 156 Reducing Minds 161 Living with the Mental Residue 170 Where We Are at Last with the Mind-Body Problem 173 References 175 Index 181
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Review quote

"In this compact and readable book, Jaegwon Kim provides an overview of his considered position on the mind-body problem, updating and refining several familiar arguments as well as introducing newer material to round out his map of the terrain. The position 'near enough' to physicalism endorsed at the end holds that, with the exception of the intrinsic features of phenomenal states, mental properties are physically reducible via functional analysis."--D. Gene Witmer, Mind "This is an excellent book by one of the world's best philosophers working on the metaphysics of mind. Nobody who is interested in the mind-body problem ... should miss the opportunity to study this book carefully."--Jesper Kallestrup, Philosophical Quarterly "Kim's Physicalism, or Something Near Enough presents philosophy at its best. The arguments contained in it are interesting and stimulating, and the discussion of opposed views is fair and highly productive. I enjoyed reading this book. It deserves to be read by anyone interested in the metaphysics of consciousness and mind."--Yaron Senderowicz, Pragmatics & Cognition "Physicalism: Or Something Near Enough is vintage Kim, and well worth reading for anyone interested in physicalism in the philosophy of mind."--Thomas W. Smythe, Philosophical Psychology
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About Jaegwon Kim

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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