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Title: Phenomenal Concepts and the Mind-Body Problem
Authors: Chappell, Helen Yetter
Advisors: Leslie, Sarah-Jane
Jackson, Frank
Contributors: Philosophy Department
Keywords: Consciousness
Phenomenal Concepts
Philosophy of Mind
Subjects: Philosophy
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation is an exploration of the nature of phenomenal concepts and the work phenomenal concepts can do in solving the mind-body problem. The first half of the dissertation is an attempt to formulate a successful theory of phenomenal concepts. I start by considering what we want out of a theory of phenomenal concepts. I argue that two popular theories of phenomenal concepts (indexical and direct reference theories) cannot satisfy these requirements. And I defend a version of the constitutional theory of phenomenal concepts, according to which our thoughts about conscious experiences literally involve the relevant experiences as constituents. I defend this theory from several hitherto underdiscussed objections: the problem of how we can think about conscious experiences in the absence of the relevant experiences, and a challenge for individuating phenomenal concepts. The second half of the dissertation assesses the philosophical work that phenomenal concepts can do in solving the mind-body problem. I argue against a posteriori physicalism - the view that the phenomenal-physical truths are only knowable a posteriori. The dominant strategies for defending this view appeal to the special nature of phenomenal concepts. I show that such appeals are misguided, arguing against both the phenomenal concept strategy and the conditional analysis of phenomenal concepts. Out of these arguments emerges a new, and highly compelling way of using phenomenal concepts to defend a priori physicalism, which is sensitive to our own psychological limitations. But just as the correct understanding of phenomenal concepts reveals a compelling version of physicalism that's immune to the standard anti-physicalist arguments, I also show that phenomenal concepts can help to defend epiphenomenalism. The upshot is that there are compelling and internally consistent version of both physicalism and dualism. The dissertation concludes by assessing where we should go from here: How can we make progress on the mind-body debate in light of this apparent stalemate?
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Philosophy

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