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The Waning of Materialism$
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Robert C. Koons and George Bealer

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199556182

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556182.001.0001

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Saving Appearances: A Dilemma for Physicalists

Saving Appearances: A Dilemma for Physicalists

(p.67) 3 Saving Appearances: A Dilemma for Physicalists
The Waning of Materialism

Charles Siewert

Oxford University Press

This chapter takes as its target ‘ambitious physicalism’: an approach that aims to provide an explanatory reduction of consciousness to a physical and functional base. The chapter uses a range of cases involving the phenomenon of ‘blindsight’ to argue for the reality of phenomenal appearances of such a kind that cannot be accounted for by the standard physicalist theories, whether eliminativist, functionalist, or representationalist. It argues that the physicalist faces a dilemma: either denying the reality of phenomenal appearances by trying to identify those appearances with something manifest and describable in non-phenomenal terms, or facing an unavoidable arbitrariness in deciding which hidden features should be assigned metaphysically necessary and constitutive status with respect to conscious phenomena. The chapter argues that the cost of abandoning ambitious, reductive physicalism is not high, since we can still study the systematic relations between phenomenal appearances and physical conditions. The persistent failure to find an ultimate explanation of the real ‘nature’ of consciousness does not threaten the explanatory completeness of science.

Keywords:   physicalism, blindsight, phenomenal appearance, explanatory completeness, consciousness

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