Review of David Papineau's 'Thinking About Consciousness'
Balog (Katalin)
Source: Mind - 113/452 (October 2004)
Paper - Abstract

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  1. David Papineau's Thinking About Consciousness is an important book. It is a powerful defence of physicalism about the mental and it takes an approach that seems particularly fruitful in dealing with the mysteries of consciousness: it focuses not on what makes conscious states special among other physical states, but rather on what it is about the concepts we apply to these states that makes consciousness seemingly inexplicable. Papineau argues, rather convincingly, that our very quest for an explanation of what makes certain physical states conscious is driven by a confusion, a confusion that has its roots in the special role that consciousness concepts play in our cognitive architecture.
  2. Papineau has all the right views on the mind-body problem: he is a physicalist, a qualia realist, and he holds that zombies are conceivable. Papineau shares this basic outlook with many philosophers writing about consciousness (for instance, Loar, Block, McLaughlin and Tye). In the past decades, this combination of views came under attack from philosophers presenting novel versions of Descartes's conceivability argument (Nagel, Jackson, Kripke, White, Chalmers and Nida-Riimelin). These arguments try to establish that the conceivability of zombies, assuming qualia realism, is not compatible with physicalism. Since there are powerful reasons to hold physicalism, as well as qualia realism and the conceivability of zombies, many physicalists showed great interest in these arguments. Most of the physicalist answers to the conceivability arguments turn on some account or other of the nature of phenomenal concepts. It is common ground among physicalists of Papineau's ilk that it is the peculiar nature of phenomenal concepts-that is, that they pick out their referent directly-that gives rise to the conceivability of zombies, but that this peculiarity of phenomenal concepts is perfectly compatible with the hypothesis that they pick out a physical state. Furthermore, it seems there is no reason - at least no a priori reason - to suppose that concepts with that very feature could not be themselves physical, picking out physical states
  3. … [snip] …
  4. Mysteries of consciousness continue to abound. Papineau has produced a very rich, thought-provoking book about them. Anybody thinking about the issues will find reading it rewarding.


Review of "Papineau (David) - Thinking About Consciousness"

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