Sunday, August 24, 2008

phil. mind: laughingstock?

Physicalism is generally reagarded, at least by most physicalists, as a naturalist position that is motivated by science. Yet, with few exceptions, physicalists rarely offer direct arguments for physicalism using premises drawn from science itself. The debates in which physicalists do engage, including defending physicalism by dealing with various objections to it, are striking for the near total absence of reference to current scientific theories or results. Much of the contemporary debate over physicalism concerns variations on the knowledge argument (paradigmatically concerning what Mary, the colour-perception-deprived yet cognitively omnipotent colour scientist, could or could not know about colour) and reflections on the putative possibility of zombies, inverted spectra, and other exotica utterly unrepresented in the literature of cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Earlier, one would more likely find debate over physicalism expressed through discussion of worries over epiphenomenal ectoplasm, or worlds physically differing from our own only in the position of one ammonium molecule, but at which there are no mental properties at all. A striking feature of these debates in at least some versions of each of them is that no facts accessible to (third-person) science bear on whether the scenarios in question are actual or not: there are no epiphenomenal ectoplasm detectors, zombies are identical to us as far as any third-person investigation can tell, and worlds at which there are no mental properties at all pose the same problem on a larger scale. This dislocation from what could be discovered empirically is odd in debate over a position ostensibly motivated by naturalism.

Ladyman & Ross (2007) Everything Must Go, 39-40
The philosophy of mind is over. The two main debates in the philosophy of mind over the last few decades about the essence of mental states (are they physical, functional, phenomenal, etc.) and over mental content have run their course. Positions have hardened; objections are repeated; theoretical filigrees are attached. These relatively armchair discussions are being replaced by empirically oriented debates in philosophy of the cognitive and neural sciences. We applaud this, and agree with Quine that "philosophy of science is philosophy enough."

Chemero & Silberstein (2008) "After the Philosophy of Mind: Replacing Scholasticism with Science"

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