THE KNOWLEDGE ARGUMENT AGAINST MATERIALISM AND THE STRATEGY OF PHENOMENAL CONCEPTS
METHODOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
Keywords:materialism, physicalism, dualism, knowledge, phenomenal concepts
Materialism/physicalism that generally dominates in the contemporary analytic philosophy is challenged by fairly powerful anti-materialist arguments, notably the zombie argument (most influentially defended by David Chalmers) and the knowledge argument (the most widely discussed version of which was advanced and defended by Frank Jackson). These arguments highlight the explanatory gap from the physical (which, if materialism is true, should constitute everything that exists, including consciousness) to phenomenal mental states, the principal impossibility to explain the latter by the former, and from this conclude that phenomenal consciousness is not physical, and so materialism is false. Materialist philosophers attempt to neutralize these arguments in several ways, the most influential of which is the strategy of phenomenal concepts. This article analyzes the main points of this debate with a focus on the knowledge argument, examines and responds to the main objections to the knowledge argument — that it should be mistaken because the alternative is epiphenomenalism, which is unacceptable; that no new knowledge but only new capacities and/or acquaintance are involved; that the knowledge is the same but in different forms; that the knowledge argument affects only type physicalism but not token physicalism. The case is made that psychophysical identities assumed by a posteriori physicalism are unexplainable in principle, and the postulation of brute unexplainable psychophysical identities glossed over by the strategy of phenomenal concepts amounts to dogmatic commitment (motivated by scientism) to a view despite its apparent falsity and its unintelligibility (the impossibility to explain how it can be true), made less unpalatable by offering an ad hoc theory about the mindbrain arrangement that makes us unable to see how the view can be true. As opposed to this, the position of the supporters of the knowledge argument and the zombie argument can be seen as guided by the principle of rational trust in obviousness and our capacities of judgement.
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