Studies in No-Self Physicalism

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This book develops and defends a version of physicalism in contemporary philosophy of mind, called ‘No-Self Physicalism’. No-Self Physicalism emphasizes that a subject of cognition is itself a physical entity, a human brain (and body). The book first argues (in Chapters 1 and 2) that many contemporary philosophers who openly accept physicalism in fact (though perhaps unconsciously and/or implicitly) take the stance of a non-physical Subject in understanding and using core philosophical notions, such as conceptual representation, truth, analyticity, modality, apriority, abstract object, knowledge and intuition. That is, they appear to be unaware that our traditional understandings of these philosophical notions presuppose a non-physical Subject. They appear to be unaware that these notions need a radical overhaul to become meaningful if, according to physicalism, the subject of cognition is itself a plain physical object, not any obscure, amorphous, non-physical, soul-like Subject. This problem threatens the coherence of many contemporary philosophers’ philosophical positions. Then, the bulk of this book (Chapters 3 to 7) consists of laborious efforts to develop truly physicalistic theories on some core philosophical notions and issues, including (in the order of presentation in this book) concepts and conceptual representation, thoughts and truth, belief ascription, analyticity, modality, the nature of mathematics, epistemic justification, knowledge, apriority, intuition, and a physicalistic ontology. These physicalistic theories explicitly assume that a subject of cognition is a human brain (and body), or a neural network-based robot programmed by evolution. They are new and are more clearly physicalistic if compared with their alternatives in the current literature. Finally, the last chapter (Chapter 8) of this book uses the physicalistic notions of conceptual representation, truth, analyticity, modality, knowledge, apriority, intuition, and the physicalistic ontology developed in previous chapters to formulate physicalism as a general philosophical worldview. This is then an internally coherent formulation of physicalism, using only naturalized philosophical notions. It helps to settle the current debates between different versions of physicalism. Therefore, on the one side, this book tries to push physicalism to its extreme, in its most radical format, by emphasizing that the cognitive subject is itself a completely physical thing, a neural network-based robot programmed by evolution, but on the other side, by some hard work, some honest toil, it tries to demonstrate that this minimal physicalistic framework can already offer accounts for many core philosophical notions and issues that traditionally interest philosophers, namely, conceptual representation, truth, analyticity, belief ascription, modality, the nature of mathematics, epistemic justification, knowledge, apriority, intuition and some ontological issues. It is meant to be a self-contained presentation of a very radical and strict version of physicalism while at the same time showing how surprisingly comprehensive this version could be.
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