On sensible matters: a defense of conceptual dualism
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The present dissertation examines the ontological status of consciousness. It argues that consciousness is physical, even though it appears not to be, and shows that consciousness' manner of appearing as something non-physical admits of a physical explanation. The dissertation responds to specific epistemic arguments against physicalism. The arguments in question are epistemic because they purport to establish an ontological gap between phenomenal facts and physical facts on the basis of an epistetnic gap between phenomenal truths and physical truths. Epistemic arguments against physicalism contend that the reason why consciousness and the physical nature of the brain appear to be different -- viz., the reason why phenomenal truths cannot be a priori deduced from physical truths -- is because consciousness and the brain are ontologically distinct. The dissertation responds to such arguments in two steps. The first step is to analyze the nature of phenomenal concepts. The second step is to demonstrate the following four theses: (1) that phenomenal concepts are conceptually isolated from physical ot functional concepts; (2) that conceptual isolation is responsible for and explains the failure of a priori entailment of phenomenal truths by physical truths; (3) that phenomenal concepts ultimately pick out physical entities; and (4) that there is a physicalistically acceptable account of phenomenal concepts. Hence, far from being indicative of an ontological gap between physical facts and phenomenal facts, the exceptional epistemic status of phenomenal truths is merely the consequence of how we conceptualize phenomenal facts.
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