Dualism: How Epistemic Issues Drive Debates About the Ontology of Consciousness.

In Uriah Kriegel (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Consciousness. Oxford University Press (2020)
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A primary goal of this chapter is to highlight neglected epistemic parallels between dualism and physicalism. Both dualist and physicalist arguments employ a combination of empirical data and armchair reflection; both rely on considerations stemming from how we conceptualize certain phenomena; and both aim to establish views that are compatible with scientific results but go well beyond the deliverances of empirical science. I begin the chapter by fleshing out the distinctive commitments of dualism, in a way that illuminates the interplay of epistemic and metaphysical elements within the dualist position. Section 2 outlines two influential arguments for dualism and explains how dualists defend those arguments from key criticisms. Sections 3 and 4 examine the most powerful objections to dualism: that it is inferior to physicalism as regards the theoretical virtue of simplicity, and that it cannot explain mental causation. I show that each of these objections to dualism depends on substantial assumptions that cannot be empirically justified. The objection from mental causation additionally rests on an ambitious assumption about how we conceptualize physical phenomena. Section 5 briefly reviews how epistemic considerations inform arguments on both sides of this debate.

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Brie Gertler
University of Virginia


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