Arguments Given By David Chalmers For Rejecting A Materialistic Account Of Consciousness In His Book

5853 words - 23 pages

Arguments Given by David Chalmers for Rejecting a Materialistic Account of Consciousness in His Book


In this paper I will examine and criticize the arguments David Chalmers gives for rejecting a materialistic account of consciousness in his book The Conscious Mind. I will draw upon arguments and intuitions from the three main schools of thought in the philosophical study of consciousness(a) forms of dualism, (b) materialism, and (c) eliminativism. Chalmers' book deals with what are currently the most controversial issues in the study of consciousness, especially among these three schools of thought, so it provides a good guide to the important issues. This paper will concentrate on the debate between dualist and materialist theories of consciousness. I will draw on the views of Joseph Levine and discussions with Ken Taylor for materialist theories, on Chalmers' book for a dualist perspective, and I will use Dennett's writings for eliminativist considerations.

In his book, Chalmers argues that if one is to "take consciousness seriously," one should endorse a dualistic theory like his property dualism because materialism cannot explain how consciousness could amount to physical structures and processes. In the process, Chalmers argues against the eliminativist position which he claims does not "take consciousness seriously." I will begin by explaining the important concepts in the dualist-materialist-eliminativist debate such as consciousness; logical, metaphysical, and natural supervenience; and zombies. Next, I will explicate what I take to be Chalmers' main argument for property dualism. I will then explain where a materialist could object to Chalmers' argument, and how Chalmers tries to rule out such a response. Finally, I will conclude with considerations of the fundamental intuitions and assumptions each of the three views of consciousness leads to, and I will ultimately argue that of all three views, materialism is the best theory.

First, what is consciousness? Consciousness is often referred to by philosophers as what it's like to feel pain or to see the color red. Qualia, phenomenal feel, and the subjective quality of experience are terms used by philosophers which all make reference to consciousness. The basic idea is that when one has an experience, a pain in the foot for example, it seems theoretically possible to separate all of the neuron firings, information processing in the brain, and behavioral responses, from what will be leftthe feeling of pain (this is also called the phenomenal feel or the qualia associated with pain). Dualists disagree with both materialists and eliminativists on whether it is possible to separate consciousness from all the nerve impulses, information processing, etc., which occur in a conscious person's brain. Eliminativists such as Dennett claim that there isn't any phenomenon above and beyond all such brain processes and their interaction left to explain. Performing imaginative thought...

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