Conceiving the Impossible and the Mind-Body Problem
Nagel (Thomas)
Source: Philosophy - 73/285 (July 1998), pp 337-352
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

    Intuitions based on the first-person perspective1 can easily mislead us about what is and is not conceivable. This point is usually made in support of familiar reductionist positions on the mind-body problem, but I believe it can be detached from that approach. It seems to me that the powerful appearance of contingency in the relation between the functioning of the physical organism and the conscious mind -- an appearance that depends directly or indirectly on the first person perspective2 -- must be an illusion. But the denial of this contingency should not take the form of a reductionist account of consciousness of the usual type, whereby the logical gap between the mental and the physical is closed by conceptual analysis -- in effect, by analyzing the mental in terms of the physical (however elaborately this is done -- and I count functionalism as such a theory, along with the topic-neutral causal role analyses of mental concepts from which it descends).

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