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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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The Property Dualism Argument

The Property Dualism Argument

(p.89) 4 The Property Dualism Argument
The Waning of Materialism

Stephen L. White (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Contemporary physicalists, materialists, and naturalists generally hold two theses: that mental states such as pains are identical to physical states of the brain, and that these identities are a posteriori. The property dualism argument raises a problem for such mental-physical identities. Suppose that pains are identical with c-fiber firings. That the identity is a posteriori means that a subject could be perfectly rational in believing what would be naturally expressed by saying ‘I am in pain’ and what would be naturally expressed by saying ‘My c-fibers are not firing’. There is, however, a pervasive ambiguity in the literature as to what is meant by ‘mode of presentation’ — whether it is representational, something on the side of our language, beliefs, or conceptual scheme, or something on the side of the world, something represented. This chapter argues that the assumption that we have a meaningful vocabulary of mentalistic terms such as ‘pain’ entails that there are modes of presentation of both kinds — concepts and the properties that give those concepts their content. And the properties that give such concepts content are thin. Thus, they confer no empirically discoverable nature on the objects that instantiate them. It concludes that there must be some irreducibly mentalistic properties — properties not identical to any physical properties — and that this is a consequence of the assumptions made by the proponents of a posteriori mental-physical identities themselves.The alternative is ‘local eliminativism’. This view is unstable — it collapses into straightforward eliminativism regarding the mental, which is incompatible with the qualia realism of the proponents of a posteriori mental-physical identities.

Keywords:   property dualism, mode of presentation, mentalistic properties, c-fibers, eliminativism, identity, pain

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