Dissertation, University of California Los Angeles (2013)
This dissertation contains four independent essays addressing a
cluster of related topics in the philosophy of mind. Chapter 1: “Fundamentality
Physicalism” argues that physicalism can usefully be conceived of as a thesis
about fundamentality. The chapter explores a variety of other potential formulations
of physicalism (particularly modal formulations), contrasts fundamentality
physicalism with these theses, and offers reasons to prefer fundamentality physicalism
over these rivals.
Chapter 2:“Modal Rationalism and the Demonstrative Reply to the Master
Argument Against Physicalism” introduces the Master Argument Against Physicalism
and investigates its crucial premise: the inference from an a priori gap between
the physical and consciousness to a lack of necessitation between the two.
I argue against the strong form of modal rationalism that underwrites the master
argument and offer a more moderate rationalist view. I offer a novel demonstrative
reply to the master argument, according to which a connection between conscious
experience and demonstratives, not dualism, is the source of the epistemic gap
between consciousness and the physical.
Chapter 3: “Conceptual Mastery and the Knowledge Argument” argues that
Frank Jackson’s famous anti-physicalist knowledge argument featuring Mary, a
brilliant neuroscientist raised in a black and white room, founders on a dilemma.
Either (i) Mary cannot know the relevant experiential truths because of trivial
obstacles that have no bearing on the truth of physicalism or (ii) once the obstacles
have been removed, Mary can know the relevant truths.
Chapter 4: “Toward a Theory of Conceptual Mastery” investigates the question
“Under what conditions does a thinker fully understand, or have mastery
of, a concept?” I argue against three views of conceptual mastery, according to
which conceptual mastery is a matter of holding certain beliefs, being disposed
to make certain inferences, or having certain intuitions. I propose and respond to
objections to my own “meaning postulate view” of the conditions under which a
thinker has mastery of a concept.