Sense-data and the mind–body problem

In Ralph Schumacher (ed.), Perception and Reality: From Descartes to the Present. Mentis. pp. 305--331 (2004)
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The first two sections of the paper characterize the nineteenth century respect for the phenomenal by considering Helmholtz’s position and James’ and Russell’s move to neutral monism. The third section displays a moment’s sympathy with those who recoiled from the latter view -- but only a moment’s. The recoil overshot what was a reasonable response, and denied the reality of the phenomenal, largely in the name of the physical or the material. The final two sections of the paper develop a third way, which retains a healthy respect for the mental and for the mind–body relation, does not attempt to equate objects with congeries of sensations, and does not attempt to deny the reality of the phenomenal. In fact, I will claim that on some conceptions (and not merely idealist-phenomenalist conceptions), the phenomenal is a fact of nature, and hence a part of the natural world. Some aspects of this third way are familiar in the various representational and critical realisms of the twentieth-century. But the realization -- or, more neutrally, the conception -- that the natural might include the phenomenal is less familiar. Yet this position has its predecessors too, not only among the physicists and psychologists of the nineteenth century, but among major physicists (as opposed to physicalist philosophers) and psychologists of the twentieth. [A re-edited version of this paper appears in Gary Hatfield, Perception and Cognition: Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology, Clarendon Press, 2009.]

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Gary Hatfield
University of Pennsylvania


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