Thinking About Consciousness
Papineau (David)
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Cover Blurb

  1. Consciousness is widely regarded as an intractable mystery. Many scientists and philosophers view it as an enigma whose solution waits on some unforeseeable theoretical breakthrough. David Papineau argues that this pessimism is quite misplaced. Consciousness seems mysterious, not because of any hidden essence, but only because we humans think about it in a special way. Thinking about Consciousness analyses this special mode of thought in detail, and exposes the ways in which it can lead us into confusions about consciousness.
  2. At the heart of the book lies a distinction between two ways of thinking about conscious states. We humans can think about conscious states materially, as normal items inhabiting the material world. But we can also think about them phenomenally, as items that feel a certain way. Dualists hold that this phenomenal mode of thought describes some special non-material reality. But David Papineau argues that it is invalid to move from a distinctive phenomenal mode of thought to a distinct non-material reality. By carefully analysing the structure of phenomenal concepts, he is able to expose the flaws in the standard arguments for dualism, while at the same time explaining why dualism can seem so intuitively compelling.
  3. Thinking about Consciousness also casts a new light on contemporary scientific research into consciousness. Much of this research is motivated by the apparently 'hard problem' of identifying the referents of phenomenal concepts. David Papineau argues that such research promises less than it can deliver. Once phenomenal concepts are recognised for what they are, many of the questions posed by consciousness research turn out to be irredeemably vague.
  4. This is the first book to provide a detailed analysis of phenomenal concepts from a materialist point of view. By recognising the importance of phenomenal thinking, David Papineau is able to place a materialist account of consciousness on a firm foundation, and to lay many traditional problems of consciousness to rest.

    Introduction - 1
  1. The Case for Materialism - 13
  2. Conceptual Dualism - 47
  3. The Impossibility of Zombies - 73
  4. Phenomenal Concepts - 96
  5. The Explanatory Gap - 141
  6. The Intuition of Distinctness - 161
  7. Prospects for the Scientific Study of Phenomenal Consciousness - 175
  8. Appendix: The History of The Completeness of Physics - 232
  9. References - 257
    Index – 263

"Balog (Katalin) - Review of David Papineau's 'Thinking About Consciousness'"

Source: Mind - 113/452 (October 2004)

  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.

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

"Bermudez (Jose Luis) - Vagueness, phenomenal concepts and mind-brain identity"

Source: Analysis; Apr2004, Vol. 64 Issue 2, p134-139, 6p

  1. David Papineau’s new book ("Papineau (David) - Thinking About Consciousness") develops a position that combines the following four theses:
    • (A) Phenomenal properties exist.
    • (B) Any phenomenal property is identical to some material property.
    • (C) Phenomenal concepts refer to material properties that are identical to phenomenal properties.
    • (D) Phenomenal concepts are vague.
  2. The overall position is intended to do justice to materialism (in virtue of (B) and (C)), while at the same time accommodating the concerns both of those impressed by the Knowledge Argument and related arguments (in virtue of (A)) and of those sceptical about the prospects for a science of consciousness (in virtue of D)).
  3. … [snip] …
  4. In many ways (D) is the most distinctive claim in the book. Papineau wants to combine a thorough-going materialism with a serious scepticism about the prospects for a science of consciousness. Even though we can know, on the basis of an argument from the completeness of physics, that every phenomenal concept has a material property as its referent, Papineau holds that there are principled reasons for denying that we can identify the material referents of phenomenal concepts.
  5. … [snip] …
  6. This combination of positions is novel and interesting. Many philosophers have defended one or other of theses (A) through (D), but only Papineau has tried to combine them. Unfortunately, the combination is unstable. The basic difficulty comes when one tries to reconcile the mindbrain identity claim with the vagueness of phenomenal concepts.
  7. … [snip] …

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

"Papineau (David) - The Argument for Naturalism about the Mind"

Source: Religion and Naturalism, Heythrop College, 12 July 2010

Full Text
  • There is a very simple argument for the conclusion that the conscious mind cannot be separate from the physical brain.
    1. Conscious states have physical effects—for example, my conscious thoughts cause my behaviour.
    2. Physical effects all have sufficient physical causes (insofar as they are caused at all)—for example, my behaviour has neurophysiological causes.
    3. The physical effects of conscious causes are not all overdetermined (in the way that a death due to a simultaneous bolt of lightning and a bullet is overdetermined).
    The first premise tells us that my behaviour has a conscious cause, the second that it has a physical cause, the third that it doesn't have two causes—the only conclusion left is that the conscious cause is (part of) the physical cause.
  • (You might worry about what ‘physical' means in the above argument. This doesn't matter too much. There are many ways of understanding `physical' that will make the argument sound. Here let us just understand it as ‘inanimate'—states that can be found outside living bodies.)
  • This argument might seem like a trick. If it's so simple, why hasn't everybody always been a physicalist? The answer is that premise 2—the causal closure of the physical—hasn't always been available. It will be helpful to look at this premise from a historical perspective.
  • In the 17C Leibniz objected to Descartes' dualism precisely on the grounds that the causal closure of the physical left no room for an ontologically independent mind to influence the physical world.
  • But this Leibnizian argument was undermined by Newtonian physics, which allowed other causes of physical effects than impact by matter in motion. For example, it allowed disembodied gravitational forces, and chemical forces, and magnetic forces—and vital and mental forces. (In the 18C there was a fierce debate between Albrecht von Haller and Robert Whytt on the relative roles of the forces of ‘irritability' and ‘sensibility'.)
  • In the 19C scientists became convinced of the conservation of energy. This didn't rule out distinct mental forces, as long as they were ‘conservative' (But it did require them to be governed by definite force laws and so ruled out a-nomal spontaneity. This engendered a huge late 19C debate about free will.)
  • The conviction that there are no distinct mental forces and only the four (three?) fundamental inanimate forces comes only in the 20C, with detailed intracellular research. Huxley and Hodgkin's 1952 model explaining nerve impulse transmission in electrochemical terms was crucial in this respect. Many philosophers presented arguments for physicalism based on the newly-established causal closure premise in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Of course, the argument for causal closure is inductive and does not conclusively rule out that some special extra force is operating somewhere in your brain. But ask yourself whether you think that it would be a sensible project for your Physics Department to start looking for this force.

COMMENT: Conference hand-out. This is effectively Section 1.2 of "Papineau (David) - The Case for Materialism", Chapter 1 of "Papineau (David) - Thinking About Consciousness".

"Papineau (David) - Thinking About Consciousness: Introduction"

Source: Papineau - Thinking About Consciousness, Introduction

  1. Mystery - What Mystery? - 1
  2. The Intuition of Distinctness - 2
  3. A Need for Therapy - 3
  4. Ontological Monism, Conceptual Dualism - 4
  5. Understanding the Intuition of Distinctness - 6
  6. The Details of Materialism - 8
  7. The Plan of the Book - 9

"Papineau (David) - The Case for Materialism"

Source: Papineau - Thinking About Consciousness, Chapter 1

  1. Introduction - 13
  2. The Causal Argument - 17
  3. The Ontology of Causes - 18
  4. Epiphenomenalism and Pre-established Harmony - 21
  5. Accepting Overdetermination - 26
  6. Functionalism and Epiphobia - 28
  7. A Possible Cure for Epiphobia - 32
  8. Intuition and Supervenience1 - 36
  9. An Argument from A Priori Causal Roles - 38
  10. What is ‘Physics’? - 40
  11. The Completeness of Physics - 44

"Papineau (David) - Conceptual Dualism"

Source: Papineau - Thinking About Consciousness, Chapter 2

Author’s Abstract
  1. After the general materialist arguments of Chapter 1, I turn to the analysis of phenomenal concepts.
  2. In Chapter 2 I start with Frank Jackson's knowledge argument. Jackson's argument is designed as an argument for ontological dualism. I show that this ontological conclusion does not follow, but that Jackson's line of thought nevertheless provides an effective demonstration of conceptual dualism — that is, of the existence of distinct phenomenal concepts.
  3. In this chapter I also make some initial comments about the nature of these phenomenal concepts.

  1. Introduction - 47
  2. Jackson's Knowledge Argument - 50
  3. Denying Any Difference - 51
  4. Imaginative Re-creation - 56
  5. Introspective Classification - 57
  6. The Ability Hypothesis - 59
  7. Indexicality and Phenomenal Concepts - 63
  8. The Contingency of Learning from Experience - 67
  9. Imagination and Introspection - 69
  10. Further Issues – 71

"Papineau (David) - The Impossibility of Zombies"

Source: Papineau - Thinking About Consciousness, Chapter 3

Author’s Abstract
  1. Chapter 3 begins with Kripke's modal1 argument against materialism.
  2. In the first instance I simply aim to analyse this argument, and to show that there is a way for the materialist to defuse it.
  3. But in the course of this analysis a further feature of phenomenal concepts emerges: if materialism is true, then phenomenal concepts must refer directly, and not by invoking any contingent features of their referents.

  1. Introduction - 75
  2. Epistemology versus Metaphysics - 77
  3. The Appearance of Contingency - 77
  4. Explaining the Appearance of Contingency - 79
  5. Referring via Contingent Properties - 81
  6. A Different Explanation - 85
  7. Thinking Impossible Things - 88
  8. Conceivability and Possibility - 91
  9. The Intuition of Distinctness – 93

"Papineau (David) - Phenomenal Concepts"

Source: Papineau - Thinking About Consciousness, Chapter 4

Author’s Abstract
  1. In Chapter 4 I build on the points already established to develop a detailed account of phenomenal concepts.
  2. I compare phenomenal concepts, which refer to experiences, with perceptual concepts, which standardly refer to observable features of the non-mental world.
  3. And I argue that phenomenal concepts paradigmatically draw on exercises of perceptual concepts, in a quotational manner.
  4. At the end of this chapter I use this account to cast some light on the ways in which we are immune to error about our own conscious states.

  1. Introduction - 96
  2. Psychological, Phenomenal, and Everyday Concepts - 97
  3. Phenomenal Properties Provide their own ‘Modes of Presentation’ - 103
  4. World-Directed Perceptual Re-creation and Classification - 106
  5. Perceptual Concepts - 108
  6. How Do Perceptual Concepts Refer? - 110
  7. The Phenomenal Co-option of Perceptual Concepts - 114
  8. A Quotational Model - 116
  9. Indexicality and the Quotational Model - 122
  10. The Causal Basis of Phenomenal Reference - 125
  11. Phenomenal Concepts and Privacy - 127
  12. First-Person Incorrigibility - 133
  13. Third-Person Uses of Phenomenal Concepts - 139

"Papineau (David) - The Explanatory Gap"

Source: Papineau - Thinking About Consciousness, Chapter 5

Author’s Abstract
  1. Chapter 5 is concerned with the 'explanatory gap'. I make the following points.
  2. Mind-brain identities are indeed inexplicable, but so are many other true identities.
  3. By contrast, scientific identities are characteristically open to explanation, in a way that mind-brain identities are not.
  4. However, this is simply because scientific and mind-brain identity claims have significantly different structures, and not because there is anything wrong with mind-brain identities.
  5. In any case, these matters of relative explanatoriness have little to do with the intuitive feeling that there is a brain-mind gap.
  6. This has a different source, which has nothing to do with the fact that mind-brain identities don't explain.

  1. Introduction - 141
  2. Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens, and Intuitions of Gaps - 143
  3. Reduction, Roles, and Explanation - 147
  4. Does Materialism Require the Physical Truths to Imply all the Truths? - 150
  5. An Epistemological Gap - 155
  6. Conclusion - 160

"Papineau (David) - The Intuition of Distinctness"

Source: Papineau - Thinking About Consciousness, Chapter 6

Author’s Abstract
  1. In Chapter 6 I focus on the real source of the intuition of mind-brain distinctness.
  2. I first show that the standard accounts of this intuition are inadequate.
  3. I then appeal to my analysis of phenomenal concepts to explain the intuition, as arising from the 'antipathetic fallacy', in the way outlined above. That is, I point out that phenomenal concepts activate versions of the feelings they refer to.
  4. By contrast, non-phenomenal concepts do not so activate any feelings.
  5. And then it is all too easy to slide, via the thought that the non-phenomenal concepts 'leave out' the feelings, to the fallacious conclusion that non-phenomenal concepts cannot refer to feelings.

  1. Introduction - 161
  2. Is an Explanation Already to Hand? - 162
  3. Does Conceptual Dualism Explain the Intuition of Distinctness? - 164
  4. Nagel's Footnote - 167
  5. The Antipathetic Fallacy - 169
  6. Do Phenomenal Concepts Resemble their Objects? - 171

"Papineau (David) - Prospects for the Scientific Study of Phenomenal Consciousness"

Source: Papineau - Thinking About Consciousness, Chapter 7

Author’s Abstract
  1. In the final chapter I consider the prospects for substantial scientific research into consciousness — that is, research which seeks to identify the material referents of phenomenal concepts on the basis of empirical evidence.
  2. Nowadays there is a great deal of enthusiasm for such research, among psychologists, neurologists, and other cognitive scientists, as well as among philosophers. But I argue that such research is limited in essential ways.
  3. There are questions about the referents of phenomenal concepts that it is quite unable to answer. However, I do not take this to show that there are mysteries of consciousness which somehow lie beyond the reach of science. Rather, the fault lies in our phenomenal concepts themselves. They are irredeemably vague in certain dimensions, in ways that preclude there being any fact of the matter about whether octopuses feel phenomenal pain, say, or whether a silicon-based humanoid would have any kind of phenomenal consciousness.
  4. I realize that this suggestion will seem counter-intuitive. Moreover, it calls into question the motivations for much current 'consciousness research'. Nevertheless, I think that there is no basis, beyond outmoded metaphysical thinking, for the conviction that facts about phenomenal consciousness must be sharp. And, in so far as the current enthusiasm for ‘consciousness research' rests on this conviction, it would be no bad thing for it to be dampened.

  1. Introduction - 175
  2. The Limitations of Consciousness Research - 176
  3. Phenomenal and Psychological Research - 179
  4. Subjects' First-Person Reports - 181
  5. Consciousness-as-Such - 184
  6. Methodological Impotence - 187
  7. Further Alternatives - 191
  8. Vague Phenomenal Concepts - 196
  9. Vagueness Defended - 199
  10. Theories of Consciousness-as-Such - 20
  11. Actualist HOT Theories - 204
  12. Attention - 208
  13. The Dispositional HOT theory - 210
  14. Methodological Meltdown - 215
  15. Representational Theories of Consciousness - 221
  16. Vagueness and Consciousness-as-Such - 225
  17. Conclusion – 228

"Papineau (David) - The History of the Completeness of Physics"

Source: Papineau - Thinking About Consciousness, Appendix

Author’s Abstract
  1. One specific issue that arises in chapter 1 is worth mentioning. A crucial premiss in the causal argument — the ‘completeness' (or ‘causal closure') of physics — turns out to be a relatively recent scientific discovery. The evidence in favour of this premiss has accumulated only over the last century or so. Correspondingly, this premiss was widely disbelieved in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, by serious physical scientists as much as others, which is why, if you ask me, materialism was so little believed until recently.
  2. There is of course no reason why this recent provenance of the completeness of physics should present a problem for materialism. A recently discovered truth is still a truth, and we will still do well to believe its consequences. But it is worth focusing on the historical contingency of the completeness of physics, for it does have the virtue of explaining why philosophical materialism is so much a creature of the late twentieth century.
  3. Sceptics sometimes suggest that this popularity is essentially a matter of passing fashion. I am able to argue that, on the contrary, the late rise of philosophical materialism is fully explained by the late scientific emergence of the completeness of physics. (Some of the more detailed historical discussion of this issue has been relegated to an Appendix at the end of the book.)

  1. Introduction - 232
  2. Descartes and Leibniz - 234
  3. Newtonian Physics - 237
  4. The Conservation of Energy - 243
  5. Conservative Animism - 249
  6. The Death of Emergentism - 253
  7. Conclusion - 255

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