The Inconceivable Popularity of Conceivability Arguments

Philosophical Quarterly 67 (267):223-240 (2017)
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Famous examples of conceivability arguments include (i) Descartes’ argument for mind-body dualism, (ii) Kripke's ‘modal argument’ against psychophysical identity theory, (iii) Chalmers’ ‘zombie argument’ against materialism, and (iv) modal versions of the ontological argument for theism. In this paper, we show that for any such conceivability argument, C, there is a corresponding ‘mirror argument’, M. M is deductively valid and has a conclusion that contradicts C's conclusion. Hence, a proponent of C—henceforth, a ‘conceivabilist’—can be warranted in holding that C's premises are conjointly true only if she can find fault with one of M's premises. But M's premises are modelled on a pair of C's premises. The same reasoning that supports the latter supports the former. For this reason, a conceivabilist can repudiate M's premises only on pain of severely undermining C's premises. We conclude on this basis that all conceivability arguments, including each of (i)–(iv), are fallacious.
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