Nagel's case against Physicalism

SATS 3 (2) (2002)
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Abstract
This paper is an attempt to understand and assess Thomas Nagel's influential case against physicalism in the philosophy of mind. I show that Nagel has claimed that experience is "subjective", or "essentially connected with a single point of view" in at least three different senses: first, in the sense that it is essential to every experience that there be something it is like to have it; second, in the sense that what an experience is like for its possessor cannot be understood by a radically different type of organism; and third, in the sense that an experience cannot be "apprehended" or "observed" from a third-person perspective. I also show that these three claims have entered into two different arguments for his view that experience cannot be accounted for in physicalist terms. By way of assessment, I suggest that physicalists have decent resources for responding to the second and third of Nagel's claims about the subjectivity of experience, but that they currently have less convincing things to say about the first claim.
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Archival date: 2017-06-21
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