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Materialism and the First Person

  • Geoffrey Madell

Here are some sentences from Fred Dretske's book Naturalising the Mind:

For a materialist there are no facts that are accessible to only one person … If the subjective life of another being, what it is like to be that creature, seems inaccessible, this must be because we fail to understand what we are talking about when we talk about its subjective states. If S feels some way, and its feeling some way is a material state, how can it be impossible for us to know how S feels? Though each of us has direct information about our own experiences, there is no privileged access. If you know where to look, you can get the same information I have about the character of my experiences. This is a result of thinking about the mind in naturalistic terms. Subjectivity becomes part of the objective order. For materialists, this is as it should be.

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1 Dretske, F., Naturalising the Mind (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1997), 65.

2 See F. Jackson, ‘Epiphenomenal Qualia’, reprinted in W. G. Lycan (ed.), Mind and Cognition (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 470–2.

3 Flanagan, O., Consciousness Reconsidered (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1992), 91, 116.

4 Lycan, W. G., Consciousness and Experience (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1996), 5468.

5 Tye, M., ‘Phenomenal Consciousness: The Explanatory Gap as a Cognitive Illusion’, Mind 108, No. 432 (10 1999), 710.

6 Tye, 713.

7 Sturgeon, S., ‘The Epistemic View of Subjectivity’, Journal of Philosophy 91, No. 5 (05 1994), 235.

8 Lycan, 64.

9 Lycan, 45.

10 Tye, M., Ten Problems of Consciousness (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1996), 92.

11 Tye, ‘Phenomenal Consciousness’, 708.

12 See Chalmers, D., The Conscious Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 136–43.

13 Lycan, 79.

14 See Brewer's, B. review of Tye's, M.Consciousness, Colour and Content in Mind 110, No. 439 (07 2001), 871.

15 Lycan, 114–5.

16 Loar, B., ‘Phenomenal States’, Philosophical Perceptives, 4 (Atascadero, California: Ridgeview, 1990), 81108.

17 Perry, J., Knowledge, Possibility and Consciousness (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2001), 205–6.

18 Chalmers, 85.

19 Dennett, D., ‘True Believers’, in his The Intentional Stance (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1987), 26.

20 Papineau, D., ‘Irreducibility and Teleology’, in Charles, D. and Lennon, K. (eds), Reduction, Explanation and Realism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 60–4.

21 Papineau actually says that there is nothing physically in common to all thermostats apart from their all turning the heater off when the water gets hot enough. That crucial qualification undermines the suggested parallel with psychological concepts.

22 Cussins, A., ‘The Limitations of Pluralism’, in Reduction, Explanation and Realism, p. 198.

23 Kim, J., Mind in a Physical World (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1998), 101.

24 Kim actually allows that abandoning physicalism in favour of substantival dualism is a serious option, and one that will entail the rejection of mind-body supervenience. See Kim, op. cit., 119.

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Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements
  • ISSN: 1358-2461
  • EISSN: 1755-3555
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