Philosophy of Mind

Philosophy of Mind - In the Consciousness and Qualia fields...

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In the Consciousness and Qualia fields of philosophy, Thomas Nagel and Frank Jackson are revered as two very well respected philosophers who hold very similar positions on the flaws of physicalism in respects to consciousness and experience. Despite their similar positions, their arguments differentiate in certain ways. For example, Nagel and Jackson differentiate in the way they use the term "what it is like" to be someone else in possession of consciousness; Jackson claims that Nagel is flawed in thinking that an experience can be objective to anyone else but the individual experiencing it. They also differentiate in their criticisms of physicalism; Nagel isn't labeling physicalism as false, just flawed, while Jackson criticizes physicalism as being false because it doesn't accommodate qualia. Taking into consideration the positions of Nagel and Jackson, Jackson provides a superior and more well founded argument for the fallacy of physicalism. In "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" Thomas Nagel argues that it is impossible for a reductionist physicalism cannot account for the functional aspects of mental events because of subjective experience. Nagel argues that the mind-body problem cannot possibly be understood without taking into account consciousness; however, when consciousness is taken into account it still causes the mind-body problem to seem impossible to understand. When I discuss "understanding the mind-body problem", I am referring to explaining the physical nature of mental events, or explaining how the physical brain events relate to mental events. Nagel bases his arguments on the fact that "an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism – something it is like for that organism" (Nagel, pg. 323). This argument points out that there is a character of experience, which Nagel argues, is subjective because the causal role of experience/mental events in relation to human behavior cannot be explained. Nagel points out that despite this argument, he doesn't completely reject a
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form of dualism in which conscious mental states and events cause behavior. I strongly agree with Nagel's claim that a physicalist approach to the mind-body problem is inadequate because it fails to account for the subjectivity of consciousness in connection with a "point of view". Nagel argues that this subjective experience can only be objective to another organism if that organism is able to adopt the point of view connected to that experience. By wondering, "what is it like to
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This note was uploaded on 04/17/2008 for the course PHIL 261 taught by Professor Jessicawahman during the Fall '07 term at Dickinson.

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Philosophy of Mind - In the Consciousness and Qualia fields...

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