The Near-Death Experience Argument Against Physicalism: A Critique

Journal of Consciousness Studies 21 (7-8):158-183 (2014)
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Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical, including the mind. One argument against physicalism appeals to neardeath experiences, conscious experiences during episodes, such as cardiac arrest, when one's normal brain functions are severely impaired. The core contention is that NDEs cannot be physically explained, and so we have reason to appeal to the non-physical in explaining them. In this paper, we consider in detail a recent article by Pim van Lommel in which he appeals to NDEs in arguing against physicalism and in favour of an alternative conception of the mind as non-localized and immaterial. Our main contentions are, first, that it is not clear that physicalism cannot accommodate the phenomena of NDEs and, second, that it is not obvious how the conception of the mind as non-localized and immaterial is supposed to help.

Author Profiles

Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin
Sam Houston State University
John Fischer
University of California, Riverside


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