The Two-Dimensional Argument Against Materialism
Chalmers (David)
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Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. A number of popular arguments for dualism start from a premise about an epistemic gap between physical truths about truths about consciousness, and infer an ontological gap between physical processes and consciousness. Arguments of this sort include the conceivability argument, the knowledge argument, the explanatory-gap argument, and the property dualism argument. Such arguments are often resisted on the grounds that epistemic premises do not entail ontological conclusion.
  2. My view is that one can legitimately infer ontological conclusions from epistemic premises, if one is very careful about how one reasons. To do so, the best way is to reason first from epistemic premises to modal1 conclusions (about necessity and possibility), and from there to ontological conclusions. Here, the crucial issue is the link between the epistemic and modal2 domains. How can one reason from theses about what is knowable or conceivable to theses about what is necessary or possible?
  3. To bridge the epistemic and modal3 domains, the framework of two-dimensional semantics can play a central role. I have used this framework in earlier work (Chalmers 1996) to mount an argument against materialism. Here, I want to revisit the argument, laying it out in a more explicit and careful form, and responding to a number of objections. In what follows I will concentrate mostly on the conceivability argument. I think that very similar considerations apply to the other arguments mentioned above, however. In the final section of the paper, I show how this analysis might yield a unified treatment of a number of anti-materialist arguments.
  4. An abridged version of this paper is forthcoming in B. McLaughlin (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Mind. The full version is forthcoming in my The Character of Consciousness (Oxford University Press, 2006). Some material in this paper is drawn from Chalmers 1999, 2002, 2004b, and 2005.
  5. This paper is intended to be my most complete statement of the argument, being maximally explicit about details and replying to many of the objections that have been raised in the literature in the last ten years or so. (Those without in-depth background in this area might look first at "Consciousness and its Place in Nature".) This is a draft, and comments are very welcome.

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