Posted: September 20th, 2022



DISCUSSION QUESTION CHOICE #1:  Which Physicalist Theory of Mind? Of the physicalist theories of mind studied this week, Behaviorism, Identity-Theory, Functionalism, Monism, or Eliminativism, which one seems most plausible in solving the Mind-Body Problem? Why don’t the others work? Use your knowledge of the readings, your own experiences and judgments to make your argument. Make sure to address possible objections to your reasoning. 

Functionalism is the most plausible in solving the mind-body issue. “The most obvious interpretation is that functionalism denies that the mind is a nonphysical thing, not because it takes the line that the mind is a physical thing, but because it takes the line that it is as wrong to think of the mind as a thing, as it would be to think of a computer program as just another physical thing.” (Physicalist Theories of Mind, n.d.). Putman compares functionalism with the hardware and software of a computer. It takes the hardware and the software to make a computer operate or function properly. Thus, the point is that it is not the importance of the program but the functionality of the pieces working together. Putman came to reject his original argument as false. First, he was of the opinion that functionalism held physical systems, to include mental ones, which have unique computational descriptions meaning computational is not physical. He later withdrew that belief and argued that any computational description of nonphysical properties can be applied to any physical thing.  

Behaviorism does not work, because it ” … is the view that the mental is the behavioral.” (Physicalists Theories of Mind) The theory is such that the mind is the body and there is not mind only behavior. In summary, behaviorism denies the mind one way or another. Behaviorism is false.

Identity-theory relates moreso to the brain. “This view … is the claim that mind and brain … are identical, one and the same.” (Physicalists Theories of Mind). According to a paper written by U.T. Place in 1956, philosophers and scientists were persuaded that what people do and of what they experience lies in the brain. The theory that the mind is the brain is known as the “central-state” materialism. However, the central-state materialists do not claim the word “mind” means “brain” which we know it doesn’t. “Central-state materialism was dead in the water.” (Physicalists).

Monism could work. Donald Davidson, a philosopher, wrote a paper ” … they use mentalistic words that cannot be defined by physical terms, as well as physical events.” (Physicalists). His theory was the mind was nonphysical and the body physical.

Eliminativism is the philosophy of the mind. The eliminativist say ” … there are no hopes, no fears, no beliefs, no desires …” (Physicalists). This group admits that mental concepts and terms cannot be reduced to scientific physiological concepts. They go on to say there is no need and no room for mental terms, and statements about things are false. The eliminativist solve the mind-body problem that the mind is a nonphysical thing is false, because there is no mind. This theory is not plausible for these reasons.



University of Maryland Global Campus. (n.d.). Physicalist Theories of Mind. Document posted in UMGC PHIL 336 online classroom, archived at


Eliminative materialism is the idea that everything people think about the mind from a common-sense point of view is incorrect. The idea states that the mental concepts that we are familiar with cannot be reduced to what we know about the mind scientifically. From this perspective, hopes, fears, beliefs, and desires are all part of a theory, but the theory is false. The problem with the theory is trying to solve the mind-body problem. Some people believe that the mind and body are the same thing, just two physical objects of the human body. Others believe that the mind is not a physical thing. In eliminative materialism, the mind exists completely separate from the physical being. Arguments for this idea include how much certain things have stagnated, such as math. There have been no changes to basic math since the late nineteenth century. This brings into question why other things should not stay undisturbed like math. The argument for why the psychology of the mind should be displaced is because it has not been fully explained. Adopting this mindset could affect how we live and communicate every day. Believing that the concepts of your life such as love and desire do not exist could cause someone to life a more secluded life. It puts them in a position to question more things about their life.


Westphal, J. (2016). 
The Mind-Body Problem.



Given the troubles of dualism, one may be tempted by what
is easily the most straightforward solution to the mind–
body problem: physicalism. On this view, everything that
exists is physical; so the mind is a physical thing, if it is a
thing. If proposition (1), that the mind is a nonphysical
thing, is false, which it is if everything is physical, then
the mind–body problem is solved. The mind is a physical
thing, and so there is nothing to stop it from interacting
with other physical things, including the body. It remains
true, however, that physical and nonphysical things, on
this view, cannot interact. But it doesn’t matter, since
there are no nonphysical things.

Well and good, but in what way is the mind supposed
to be a physical thing? There are a number of different
































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54    Chapter 3

Behaviorism is the view that the mental is the behav-
ioral. Mind is behavior. The mind is the body, considered
from the point of view of its behavior. Some hardline be-
haviorists actually went so far as to deny the existence of
the mind and mental events, over and above behavior.
There is no mind, but only behavior. This is a very simple
but pretty extreme point of view that has not found much
favor among philosophers or scientists recently. Part of the
problem is that we do seem to be acquainted with our own
mental states, our thoughts and feelings, and they are not
nothing at all. Another part of the problem is that there do
seem to be obvious examples of an interaction from mind
to body.

A second and more reasonable version of behaviorism
took the line that, from a scientific point of view, we should
not study the mind and mental events, because they can-
not be directly observed; their existence must be inferred
from the external behavior of human subjects. This is not
the strongest line of thought, it has to be said, since many
entities studied in science cannot be observed directly, but
we infer their existence from their effects. Electricity is an
example. We know about it by watching lightning, for ex-
ample, or by understanding Maxwell’s equations, or how a
radio works.

Nevertheless, one can understand how, in the atmo-
sphere of the religiously oriented dualism that prevailed
in philosophy at the beginning of the twentieth century,

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and which many scientifically oriented people found un-
congenial, the bold claim could be advanced, on behalf
of psychology, that science should allow as its subject
matter only what can be directly observed. This is cer-
tainly very different from saying that its subject matter
does not exist.

An even more reasonable variant of behaviorism is
that mind as such is not interesting or important, and its
study should be replaced by the study of behavior. There
is no mention in this view of what is directly observable.
It is almost like saying, “I am more interested in behavior
than I am in mind.” This is, of course, an impossible view to
rebut, if it is true that you are more interested in behavior
than in mind; but the question remains whether you should
be more interested in mind as such, or whether its study
would offer you some benefit.

This third and more reasonable line of thought, how-
ever, would make it impossible to solve the mind–body
problem in a way that is satisfactory for science, or even
to state it. We should not study or talk about minds,
so we will never be in a position to say either that the
mind is a nonphysical thing with any scientific authority,
or, for that matter, that it is a physical thing. Our first
proposition, that the mind is nonphysical, is one whose
truth or falsity we should not actively pursue, because its
truth or falsity is something that should not be talked

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56    Chapter 3

There is a fourth form of behaviorism, however, that
is more appealing than any of the first three forms. It is
the view that the mind is behavior in the sense that any
proposition about the mind can be “translated” into a
proposition about behavior. So, for example, if I say “I am
tired,” I am reporting not the presence of an inner feeling
of drowsiness, but rather of a tendency or disposition to
stop work, to lie down, to close my eyes perhaps, to rest,
and so on. All of these things are external behavior, observ-
able by others and fully within the purview of science and
of common observation.

Gilbert Ryle wrote in his influential 1949 book The
Concept of Mind that

when we describe people as exercising qualities of
mind, we are not referring to occult episodes of
which their overt acts and utterances are effects;
we are referring to those overt acts and utterances

It is hard to believe, reading the admittedly rather few pas-
sages like this in his book, that Ryle was not a behaviorist,
and indeed he himself remarked of the book that when
he wrote it, “certainly one of my feet was pretty firmly
encased in this boot.”2 Nevertheless, there is more to the
story. Ryle writes in the passage above that when we talk
about minds, “we are not referring to occult episodes” (my

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emphasis); but there is a case to be made that all the same
he does not deny the existence of these episodes. Perhaps
he means that when we say publicly that a person is tired,
we are “referring,” not to that person’s private and inner
feeling of tiredness hidden from others, but rather to his
tendency or disposition to stop work, to lie down, to close
his eyes, to rest, and so on. This is not to deny that the in-
ner feeling exists. In chapter 6 I describe the other side of
Ryle’s view, his “dissolutionism” as it has been called, and
again take up the question whether he is to be considered
a full-blooded behaviorist.

What is wrong with the idea that the mind just is some
sort of behavior? One difficulty is that this view seems to
leave out what we think of as the “inner” life of thoughts
and feelings—the mind! Behaviorism solves the mind–
body problem by denying the mind in one way or another.
We can produce behavior without it, and without its rich
experience of sensation and perception, colors, sounds,
and tastes, for example, or qualia. We can easily imagine
a machine that reacts to red things just as we do, picking
them and eating them, perhaps, but which has no experi-
ence of the colors. It behaves as if it saw red, but it does not
have the experience. This has been called the “problem of
absent qualia.”

There are other twentieth-century philosophers who,
like Gilbert Ryle, might also seem to be offering behav-
iorist arguments but are not. A famous example is the

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58    Chapter 3

“beetle-in-the-box” part of the so-called private-language
argument in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations.
Wittgenstein is arguing that there could be no language
in which we could report our own private sensations.
Suppose, he writes, that everyone has a box with some-
thing in it, or perhaps nothing at all. There is a rule that
no one is allowed to look inside anyone else’s box. Every-
one calls what is in his own box a “beetle.” But where no
checking is allowed about what is in anyone else’s box,
the word “beetle” would not come to mean “an organ-
ism of the order Coleoptera, with hard fore-wings,” but
rather “whatever is in anyone’s box.” Yet Wittgenstein
explicitly denies that he is trying to deny the existence
of sensations, somethings in the boxes. The issue is one
of meaning.

Behaviorism does indeed solve the mind–body prob-
lem, very easily, by denying that the mind is a nonphysical
thing. Behaviorism simply denies proposition (1). So the
discussion at this point should turn to the question of how
plausible behaviorism itself is. The judgment of history, it
is fair to say, is “Not very.” One powerful reason is the prob-
lem of absent qualia, mentioned above. Another objection
is the possibility of the inverted spectrum and its analogues
in other sensory modalities. We can imagine people behav-
ing systematically in the right way, but having the “wrong”
experiences. Their “inner experience” might be of all the
colors, but with their positions in the visual field reversed

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Behaviorism does
indeed solve the
mind–body problem,
very easily, by denying
that the mind is a
nonphysical thing.

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60    Chapter 3

from ours. The subjects with inverted color experiences
would see a cyan green-blue color where we see red, a blue
where we see orange, and so on throughout color space.
But the behavior of these people would be the same as ours.
When we see red, and call it “red,” they see what we call
“cyan,” and call it “red,” and when we see cyan, and call it
“cyan,” they see red and call it “cyan.” Accordingly, having
the experience of red cannot be a matter of producing the
right behavior. Our subjects suffering from an inverted
spectrum behave around red just as we do, even calling it
“red,” but actually experience a green-blue cyan color. Ac-
cording to behaviorism, the subjects are experiencing red;
but this is false. Therefore, behaviorism is false.

There are other overwhelming arguments against be-
haviorism, but perhaps the biggest has been the realization
from psychiatry, psychology, and physiology that events in
the brain can explain behavior. If the relevant parts of the
visual cortex are absent or damaged, for example, color vi-
sion can be affected, and our behavior will not be the same
as the behavior of someone with a properly functioning vi-
sual cortex. During the two World Wars the evidence from
neurology and from the hospitals mounted up. It began
to look as though the state of the brain is what is mak-
ing us behave in the way we do, or at the least allowing
us to—though these are hardly the same thing. When in
the 1950s the evidence for a causal explanation of behavior
in the brain, or anyway a causal explanation of abnormal

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behavior, became too telling, behaviorism started to lose
almost all its popularity, and very quickly at that.

It was especially troubling that if, according to behav-
iorism, a mental state is a disposition to behave, then if
what explains the behavior is the mental state, as we would
ordinarily think, we have to say that what explains the behav-
ior is the disposition to behave in that way! Thus behaviorism
amounts to a tautology—a trivial truth—if there is such a
thing as an explanation of the body’s behavior by mental

The Identity Theory

By the mid-1950s, when things began to change, they
changed completely. Starting with a pioneering paper in
1956 by U. T. Place, more and more philosophers and sci-
entists were persuaded that the explanation both of what
people do and of what they experience lies in the brain.
American and Australian philosophers in particular began
to advance what became known as the “mind–brain iden-
tity theory,” or the “identity theory,” as it is called for short.
This view, as its name suggests, is the claim that mind and
brain, or anyway the relevant bits of the central nervous
system, are identical, one and the same. Here too, the
mind–body problem is solved at a stroke, by physicalism,
by the denial that the mind is a nonphysical thing. Every

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mental event is a physiological event within the nervous
system. Accordingly, the theory that the mind is the brain
has sometimes been known as “central-state” materialism,
a materialism making the mind into the central nervous
system, distinguishing it from the “peripheral-state” ma-
terialism of the behaviorists.

In its favor, the theory can be said to be commonsensi-
cal, given the facts of neurology such as the effects of brain
damage, and it makes a great simplification in the philoso-
phy of mind. But it is hardly an “astonishing hypothesis,”
as Francis Crick claimed in a book of that title published
in 1994. It is important and interesting, certainly, but not
so astonishing. Like behaviorism, it solves the mind–body
problem at a stroke, by denying that the mind is nonphysi-
cal. If this proposition about the mind is true, then the
solution is, as before, impeccable. The mind is the brain
and the brain is a physical thing, so the mind can interact
with the rest of the body without difficulty. Yet we miss the
essential thing needed for a solution: how has the physi-
cal, which has physical properties, turned into the men-
tal, which has properties incompatible with being a part of
the physical? What do neurons have when they fire that
produces mind rather than electrical signals, or soap bub-
bles, for that matter?

Against the theory are also certain logical and philo-
sophical difficulties. The central-state materialists do not
claim and are bound not to claim that the word “mind”

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  physiCalist theories of Mind    63

means “brain,” which is fortunate for them, as “mind” as
a matter of fact does not mean “brain.” If it did, the claim
about the meanings of the words would make the main
claim of central-state materialism (that the mind is the
brain) into a necessary truth generated by the meanings of
the two words. Its truth could have been discovered simply
by looking in the dictionary. However, what the mind is
was taken by the central-state materialists to be an empiri-
cal and factual question, not one of meaning. Central-state
materialists, including Crick, took the question to be scien-
tific, in just the same way as the question of what the gene
or unity of heredity is was empirical and factual, to use the
central-state materialists’ own favorite example. The gene
turned out to be DNA, but this could not have been known
from the meanings of words “gene” and “deoxyribonucleic

So far so good. But then there appeared an unpleas-
ant proof from the world of logic. Identity, as it turns out,
is always necessary. Suppose a = b. a has the following in-
teresting property. It is necessarily identical with itself, a.
Take this last statement, that a is necessarily identical with
a. Substitute b for the second a; we are entitled to do this,
since we have supposed that a = b. But now it follows that a
is necessarily identical with b. Accordingly, if central-state
materialism is going to claim that the mind and the brain
are not necessarily identical, it must itself be false. This
proof was published by Saul Kripke in lectures given in

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64    Chapter 3

1970, and he developed extraordinarily interesting related
arguments in the same work.3

Proofs of this sort, it should be noted, rely on the fact
that the terms on either side of the identity sign, here “a”
and “b,” are fixed names (“rigid designators,” as Kripke
called them) and not descriptions that can be applied
to different things. “The human mind” and “the human
brain” are names, and so are “pain” and “events a in the
thalamus, b the pre-frontal cortex, or c the primary and
secondary somatosensory cortex (S1 and S2).”4 So the
proof does not imply that it is somehow necessary that the
Queen is Elizabeth II, which is true as I write. “Elizabeth II”
is a name, but “the Queen,” even “the Queen of England”
is really a compressed description that can apply to differ-
ent persons, as it has done in the last hundred years. It is
not a rigid designator because the place of the object of its
description can be different objects.

Furthermore, the claim that the mind is the brain also
turns out to be equivalent to the claim that the brain is
the mind, since identity is what logicians and mathemati-
cians call “commutative.” If a = b then obviously b = a. But
the claim that the brain is really at bottom the mind could
hardly be expected to appeal to a hard-headed central-
state materialist, since it makes a claim more suggestive of
idealism (everything is mind) than of materialism (every-
thing is matter).

What is a central-state materialist to do?

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One answer was to take advantage of a distinction that
had existed for some time in general philosophy, including
metaphysics and the philosophy of art: the distinction be-
tween types and tokens. Take, for example, Edward Elgar’s
Cello Concerto in E minor. It has been played many times,
including its disastrous premiere in 1919, Jacqueline du
Pré’s triumphant and elegiac performances in the 1960s,
and hundreds of others. How many Elgar Cello Concertos
are there? Could one say that there are hundreds? In that
case, since Elgar wrote the work or works, he wrote hun-
dreds of Cello Concertos. But he didn’t. He was enormously
hardworking, but not that hardworking. Or is there only
one concerto? But then how could it appear in all sorts of
different places and at all sorts of different times with so
many different soloists? The answer developed by philoso-
phers is that there is one concerto type and many concerto
tokens or instances, in much the same way that there is
one book called Pride and Prejudice, but many copies of the
book. The copy both is and is not the work; it is a token
of the work, but it is not the type. There is a difference
between the Cello Concerto case and the case of the book,
though, because there is nothing that could be regarded as
the performance of Pride and Prejudice. But though what
is played is “the music,” as it is written, all the same it can
be said that the glorious sound that is the Cello Concerto
is not the sheet music, whereas the printed copies of the
book are the novel.

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The distinction has its difficulties, clearly, but it was
used advantageously to distinguish two forms of the iden-
tity theory. There is the type pain, and there is the indi-
vidual pain that is a token of the type. In the stronger and
less plausible form of the theory it was the type or property
mental state that was said to be identical with the type or
property brain state. In the less sweeping and more con-
vincing version, it was instead said to be just the one par-
ticular instance of a mental state that was identical with
a particular instance of a brain state. It might be that two
organisms both feel the same or a similar pain, but that
they are not in the same brain state. They are in some brain
state; and since it is implausible that everyone’s physio-
logical and psychological systems work in the same way,
especially when we consider different organisms that have
very different kinds of brains, it is much more plausible to
identify this pain with this brain state, and accept the con-
sequence that two individuals in the same psychological
state may not be in the same physiological state. But they
must be in some physiological state, with which the pain
state is identical. So one is bound to wonder what makes
all the tokens into tokens of the same type. Why are they
all instances of pain?

In any case, it was suggested that the logical arguments
against central-state materialism only worked against
identities of types. That turned out not to be the case. The

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  physiCalist theories of Mind    67

arguments, as it was soon realized, worked equally well
against identities of tokens.

Even before the logical proofs against central-state
materialism were worked out and made public in the
1970s, however, it was already too late; central-state ma-
terialism was dead in the water. This came about not be-
cause of the intricate logical argumentation against it, but
because a much more powerful view had arisen to take the
place of central-state materialism, more in keeping with
the science of the time.


The new view that took the place of central-state mate-
rialism was functionalism. It came upon the philosophi-
cal scene in 1967 with Hilary Putnam’s “Psychological
Predicates” and other subsequent papers.5 Putnam ar-
gues that pain is not a brain state, but another kind of
state entirely. It is a state of a probabilistic automaton or
a Turing machine. A Turing machine is in essence a com-
puter, and it computes, having computational or functional
states that are not its physical states. They are described
completely differently, for one thing, and for another the
computational states are not made of matter, but rather
of a kind of functionality, if they can be said to be made
of anything at all. One can also imagine that two Turing

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68    Chapter 3

machines could happen accidentally to be in just the same
physical states, but in the process of performing differ-
ent computations. So their computational states at that
moment at which they are physically identical would not
be the same states. So if mental states are computational
states, as functionalism suggested, they are not the physi-
cal states of the organism.

The power of functionalism came from the interesting
fact that it deployed to full effect the distinction between
computer hardware and computer software. What is going
on with functionalism is that the mind is compared to ac-
tive software, not to rigid hardware. Even with ordinary
computers, one can imagine that two laptops computing
the same function, say, the multiplication 7 × 9, might do
it in very different physical ways. One might even consider
an optical computer that does not work in the same way as
an electronic computer, by electrons slowly pushing one
another around through the different gates that make up
the central processing unit. Clearly the two computers,
optical and electronic, are not in the same physical state,
since photons are not electrons. But the output (63) will
always be the same given the same input (7 × 9). One can
think of the function of the two machines as the same; for
even their logical architecture might be quite different.
Again, even two electronic computers might be running
very different programs yet happen coincidentally at some
instant to be in the same physical state.

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Putnam had discovered the multiple realizability thesis,
the proposition that one mental state can be realized in
multiple and very different ways. Goats, birds, reptiles,
and mollusks all feel pain, depending of course what your
philosophy of animal minds is. But it is completely implau-
sible to think that when they do, they are all in the pre-
cisely the same physiological brain state.

One might have thought, as Putnam pointed out, that
the effect of the development of computers on the philoso-
phy of mind was going to be materialistic, but in the event
it was the reverse. The distinction between hardware and
software allowed computing systems to be considered in
abstraction from their physical states, and to highlight the
difference between the computational or Turing-machine
state, and the physical.

The time was right for functionalism, and it swept
through the philosophy of mind in spite of some rear-guard
action by central-state materialists. It rapidly became the
preferred philosophy of mind of the artificial intelligen-
tsia, those working in artificial intelligence, but also of
many philosophers, especially philosophers of mind, and
scientists in fields other than cognitive science.

How does functionalism solve the mind–body prob-
lem? The most obvious interpretation is that function-
alism denies that the mind is a nonphysical thing, not
because it takes the line that the mind is a physical thing,
but because it takes the line that it is as wrong to think of

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70    Chapter 3

the mind just as a thing, as it would be to think of a com-
puter program as just another physical thing. What is im-
portant about the program is not the physical states of the
piece of tape or paper or electronic hardware as a thing, but
its functionality.

Putnam has now recanted, arguing in 1991, against
his own former functionalist self, that functionalism is
false. One of his arguments is that any computational de-
scription of nonphysical properties can be applied to any
physical thing, so that functionalism is completely trivial.
This is interesting for us, however, whether it is right or
not, because it suggests that, before he came to reject it,
Putnam had taken functionalism to hold that physical
systems, including mental ones, do have unique computa-
tional descriptions, and that this fact is what is behind the
truth that the computational is not the physical. In that
case, Putnam must have thought that functionalism solves
the mind–body problem by denying the proposition that
the mind is a nonphysical thing.

If this is right, it will come as no surprise that function-
alism has a problem with qualia or phenomenal properties,
just as behaviorism had had. One can easily conceive of two
“systems” in just the same functional or computational or
Turing-machine state, built into a robot with inputs having
spectra inverted relative to one another, and computing
on the basis of these inputs. Accordingly, the qualitative
experience of the spectrum cannot be the same thing as

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a functional or computational state. A Turing machine
may be computing away without the slightest idea of what
it is computing about, the color red, say. It computes, hap-
pily accepting inputs and giving outputs about colors,
without having the slightest impression or idea what col-
ors are.

An even more interesting idea is that functionalism is
a form of property dualism, if it is taken to claim that it is
false that the body is physical; for the body, including the
brain, might be thought to have nonphysical or functional
computational states.

Anomalous Monism

At about the same time as functionalism was changing the
world of the philosophy of mind, the philosopher Donald
Davidson was independently developing a deep and inter-
esting view of the relationship between the mind and the
physical world.

In a classic paper from 1970, “Mental Events,” David-
son takes it as given that there are descriptions of events
in the world, descriptions that are irreducibly mental, in
the sense that they use mentalistic words that cannot be
defined by physical terms, as well as physical events.6 So he
subscribes to the essence of the propositions that the mind
is nonphysical and that the body is physical, our (1) and

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(2). He also takes the view that there are causal relations
between at least some mental events and some physical
events. But, he notes, such causal relations require a basis
in a law that covers them. Where there is a causal relation,
there is a law to cover it. There is no such thing as “singu-
lar” causation that works on one occasion but not on oth-
ers. All this is easy enough to accept, until we reflect with
Davidson that it is also the case that there are no strict laws
covering the relations between the physical and mental
events. There is no physical law that absolutely demands
that when I decide to go to Italy to see my grandmother, I
find my neurons firing in exactly this or that way.

Of course, one might doubt the general truth of this
“anomalism of the mental,” because there are some pretty
strict laws in psychophysics. An example is the so-called
Weber–Fechner law for the perception of weight. The law
states that in human perception there is a logarithmic re-
lationship between the strength of the stimulus and the
strength of response. A correspondingly greater increase
in the stimulus is required to increase the same response.

In the first place, however, the law is actually not
strict. It applies moderately well to human perception, but
it only applies well over certain ranges of perception, such
as the higher amplitudes in audition or hearing, and there
are other limitations as well.

It might well be thought, of course, that though there
are no strict psychophysical laws, this is hardly surprising,

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  physiCalist theories of Mind    73

because there are no strict physical laws either. Gravita-
tional laws, for example, assume a hard vacuum, which
never strictly exists. It should be conceded, though, that
the laws of physics and chemistry are very much stricter
than the laws of psychophysics.

We should also note that Davidson’s real interest was
in paradigmatically psychological laws as they apply to
human behavior, or the more rational and conscious
parts of human behavior, such as my decision to go to
visit my grandmother in Italy, not in perception. There
really is no law about such an event or about an event
“so described,” as Davidson puts it. The intention con-
cerns the rational end of human behavior, and rational-
ity could hardly be codified in such a way as to connect
up with the world of scientific law. But our concepts
of the mental are tied up with rationality, for exam-
ple in such ideas as “reasonable,” “intent,” “intention,”
“thoughtfulness,” and so on.

For Davidson there are causal relations between the
mental and the physical, and causal relations demand
strict laws, but there are no strict laws between the physi-
cal and the mental. And here we have a huge and fascinat-
ing problem. We have an inconsistent triad, one indeed
that has a definite relationship to our original inconsistent
tetrad. If the mental and physical interact, and causal re-
lations demand strict laws, then there certainly ought to
be strict laws governing physical and mental events. But

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74    Chapter 3

there aren’t, according to Davidson, and we have a contra-
diction on our hands.

What is actually happening is that Davidson is ini-
tially affirming that physical and nonphysical things can-
not interact, because that would require strict causal laws
between the mental and the physical. He then notes that
mind and body do interact, but, as he finally puts it, they
can only do so under a nonmental vocabulary, one that is
not physical in nature. What is left is that mental descrip-
tions are anomalous, in that they do not connect system-
atically with scientific explanations. It is perhaps worth
noting that Davidson began his academic career with a
PhD in classical Greek philosophy, and that he has always
been alive to the richness and variety of language about
the mind.

There are things other than mental events that have
anomalous descriptions. One might take an interest in
things that are cheap, for example, without thinking that
cheap things have anything in common that could re-
late them to the physical world by means of strict laws.
There are no strict laws of cheapness, if you like. “Cheap”
is a vague, idiosyncratic, and interest-relative predicate.
It reflects our everyday behavior and practices in such a
way that it could never become a word used in a strict sci-
ence, even economics. And so it is with mental words. They
reflect our rational interests, for example in explaining

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everyday actions, but not within the framework of physi-
cal law.

By the way, Davidson also has an argument here for
the conclusion that mental events must be token-identical
with certain physical events. Since mental events, so de-
scribed, do not fall under strict laws, and since they do in-
teract with physical events, they must fall under physical
laws. Hence they must be physical events. But they must
also not be physical events described as such, and so they
are not type-identical with physical events. So they are
token-identical with physical events. This is Davidson’s ar-
gument that every mental event is actually some physical
event. It is certainly a brilliant line of thought.

In his overall argument concerning the mind–body re-
lation, Davidson can be taken to be arguing that:

(1) The mind is a nonphysical thing

(in the sense that descriptions of the mind are couched in
nonphysical terms, but not in the sense that it is not a
physical object).

(2) The body is physical.
(3) The mind and the body interact.
(4) Physical and nonphysical things cannot interact

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(since (4) would require strict causal laws between them,
and there are none).

The distinctively Davidsonian catch that we see in the
ambiguity of (1) is that under another and peculiarly hu-
man descriptive vocabulary, mental descriptions are non-
physical, not in the sense that these descriptions are not,
say, written in physical ink or spoken in physical words, but
in the sense that they do not use any of the words or sym-
bols of physics, and do use other “mental” or psychological
words. Mental events can in one sense truly be said to be
physical, but they can also be described in a nonphysical
vocabulary, just as objects can in one sense truly be said to
be physical, but they can also be described in the nonphysi-
cal vocabulary of home economics. “That’s a cheap bag of
tomatoes—let’s buy it,” we might say. That doesn’t mean
that the tomatoes are not physical things.

For all its undoubted charm, we should not allow Da-
vidson’s view to cause us to forget the logical difficulties
with central-state materialism, of the type or token vari-
ety, the powerful insights of functionalism, nor the diffi-
culty that any form of materialism has dealing with qualia.
When we allude to qualia, to colors for example, we are not
just adopting a funny new vocabulary, in addition to talk
about electromagnetic radiation, that happens to suit us in
our dealings with the world. The new vocabulary is not just
a different way of talking about electromagnetic radiation.

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  physiCalist theories of Mind    77

It is a way of talking about something completely different:
colors. Colors have properties that are not strictly physi-
cal—for example, brightness. Brightness is not physical.
It is related to luminance, the narrowly physical and physi-
cally defined concept, which is about how much radiation
is transmitted, emitted, or reflected by a particular unit
area. When we say that yellow is a bright color, this has
an entirely nonphysical meaning, one that can in principle
be determined and can only be determined by direct ob-
servation, without the measurement of luminance of the
yellow colored area. Brightness is not a concept to be found
in physics but, on the standard view, a concept to be found
in psychology.


With anomalous monism, one has the feeling that the
mental has been spirited away, as some, not including
Davidson, might think it deserves to be. Perhaps it would
be better for Davidson to allow that that there is no such
thing as the mental, though there are mental vocabularies,
descriptions, explanations and ways of talking, or mental
concepts, but then one starts to worry that the mental is
being swept under a convenient linguistic rug.

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With the philosophy of mind known as “eliminativism”
or “eliminative materialism,” we have the straight recogni-
tion that talk about the mental will not fit into the scheme
of things given to us by the study of the physical world as
it applies to human beings, or to any other part of science.
Eliminativists admit that mental concepts and terms can-
not be reduced to scientific physiological ones. They draw
the conclusion that in a completed neuroscience there is
no need and no room for mental terms and concepts, and
that statements about things mental are just false. These
statements are relics of an outmoded psychology and psy-
chophysics, just as statements about witches are relics of
outmoded an outmoded view of human nature. There are
no witches, and witches are a product of superstition. Nor
can we relate witches to concurrent physical events, such
as pot-stirring and the training of cats by night. Similarly,
says the eliminativist, there are no hopes, fears, beliefs,
and desires; they are a product of an inherited form of lan-
guage that has no basis in science, explains nothing, and
has no use beyond the parochial view that belongs in the
gossip-filled village shop, and certainly has no use in a sci-
entific laboratory.

Unlike Davidson, eliminative materialists, of whom
the most distinguished are Paul and Patricia Churchland
and Stephen Stich, take the view that the sentences of the
psychology of everyday life that refer to hopes, fears, be-
liefs, and desires are a sort of a theory, but a completely

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Eliminativists admit
that mental concepts
and terms cannot be
reduced to scientific
physiological ones.

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false one. What is called “folk psychology” by its detrac-
tors, on the analogy with “folk remedies,” “folklore,” and
so on, is false:

The common-sense conception of psychological
phenomena constitutes a radically false theory, a
theory so fundamentally defective that both the
principles and the ontology of that theory will
eventually be displaced, rather than smoothly
reduced, by a completed neuroscience.7

For Davidson, on the other hand, folk psychology is not
explanatory, and it is not a theory at all. That role is
reserved for physics. But it is descriptive.

Folk psychology, writes Paul Churchland, “suffers ex-
planatory failures on an epic scale, … has been stagnant for
at least twenty-five centuries, and … its categories appear
(so far) to be incommensurable with or orthogonal to the
categories of the background physical science whose long-
term claim to explain human behavior seems undeniable.”8
Most philosophers disagree with Churchland that there is
something called folk psychology which is a theory that
makes predictions, the so-called theory theory. It is rather
a loose set of concepts that we employ in ordinary life, con-
cepts like family, in the social world, or the state, in the po-
litical world, or work of art in the world of art. Propositions
using such concepts are not radically false. And nor should

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  physiCalist theories of Mind    81

such concepts be swept away in return for some suppos-
edly more profound and accurate scientific concepts, any
more than those of cooking or of personal relationships.

There is another problem with Churchland’s claim.
Arithmetic, for example, has stagnated for far longer
than folk psychology, if that means merely that it has not
changed. There have been no changes in elementary arith-
metic since it was discovered. Multiplication, division, ad-
dition, and subtraction—all have “stagnated.” Projective
geometry, to take another more high-powered example, is
in essence complete, and has been since the late nineteenth
century. Why then should the concepts of the psychology
of ordinary life also not remain undisturbed?

The answer, writes Churchland, is that folk psychology
should be displaced because it has not explained mental
illness (all of it?), creative imagination, individual differ-
ences in intelligence, sleep, the ability to hit targets with
projectiles such as baseballs, 3D perception, all the visual
illusions, memory, the speed of memory, learning (includ-
ing learning in prelinguistic infants), and so on and so
forth. On all these, folk psychology sheds “negligent light.”

The list sets a high bar indeed—too high. For science
has not explained what sleep is, nor what mental illness
is (which incidentally it could not do on the eliminativist
view, since “mental illness” is a folk psychological concept,
and so it must be “radically false” that people have mental
illnesses), nor what creative imagination is (imagination is

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another folk psychological concept, however), and so on.
Perhaps there is some conviction that only science could
explain all these mysterious things, but that is the conclu-
sion for which Churchland is arguing, not a premise from
which he is entitled to argue.

And consider. Elementary arithmetic has failed dis-
mally in the last two thousand five hundred years, and in-
deed the whole of mathematics has failed, to determine
whether there is an odd perfect number, the truth of the
Goldbach conjecture, the solution to the Collatz problem,
the twin prime conjecture, and so on. Arithmetic has really
stagnated, no? And it should pull up its socks. Perhaps we
should replace it with neuroscience, which has solved all
sorts of important problems.

It is again very obvious how eliminative materialism
solves the mind–body problem. Proposition (1), that the
mind is a nonphysical thing, is false, not because the mind
is physical, but because there is no mind. Nothing, includ-
ing the mind, is nonphysical. The existence of something
called “the mind,” and all its works, is part of a “radically
false” folk mythology.

Again, we have a completely successful solution to the
mind–body problem, and again we have a view that is itself
every bit as hard to believe as the mind–body problem is
said to be intractable. The clear success of a solution seems
to stand in inverse relationship to its believability.

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At the very end of his fine book Philosophy of Mind, pub-
lished in 2006, the distinguished American philosopher
Jaegwon Kim writes that the “limit of physicalism” is qua-
lia. Physicalism can be defended, he thinks, for everything
except qualia. Qualia cannot, like everything else mental,
such as intention, be functionally defined, Kim thinks, and
qualia cannot be reduced to anything physical; nor can they
be defined at all. Yet Kim is still a proponent of a natural-
istic worldview, a worldview that includes mind. How can
this be? He writes in Physicalism, or Something Near Enough,
that “physicalism is not the truth, but it is the truth near
enough, and near enough ought to be good enough.”1 This
is stylistically good stuff and a good way to end a book, but
it simply will not do from a philosophical point of view.


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Over here is a worldview, physicalism, which claims that
everything is physical. Over there is a clear case, according
to Kim himself, of something nonphysical, with a probably
potentially infinite number of instances: all the colors, all
the sounds, all the smells, all the tastes, all the objects of
the other sensory modalities, and all the objects of sensory
modalities that we do not experience, if there are any, for
example the ultraviolet perception that bees have, their
perception of polarization, and so on. To be fair we must
also include all the nonsensory “what it is like’s,” all the
shades and mixtures and degrees of anger, for example, or
depression, or confusion, or elation, or delight, transport,
ecstasy, joy, exhilaration, glee, bliss, and on and on. So we
have a theory to which there is an infinitely extensible
counterexample, and Kim says that is “near enough.” Near
enough to what, one wonders? Not the truth, most cer-
tainly. If we conjoin the truth of physicalism with the truth
of the proposition that millions of nonphysical color qualia
and all the rest can exist, then what we have, by straight
logic, is a falsehood, since the second proposition contra-
dicts the first. The conjunction of a truth and a falsehood
is a falsehood. How is that falsehood “near enough” to the
truth? It seems to amount to something like “If physical-
ism were only true, though it isn’t, it would be true.”

Kim is a philosopher with no phobia about meta-
physics, so it is hard to understand why he did not start
fresh, saying to himself, “Here is the situation. Everything

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  antimaterialism about the mind    85

suggests physicalism; but it is false. For one very important
class of irreducible entities stands against it.” And then he
might perhaps have asked the question, “How can that be?
How on earth can that be how things are? How can it be
that everything points one way, but the truth lies in the
opposite direction?” Kim’s blind spot about this may have
to do with the fact that colors and the other qualia are ap-
parently causally inactive. His own work has been devoted
to the topic of causation and the application of the concept
to a variety of philosophical problems; causal inactivity, I
suspect, is for him “near enough” to nonexistence. But this
is just prejudice against noncausal concepts.

Next I want to examine some well-known arguments,
three in number, all going in roughly the same direction,
that have produced what some have regarded as an antima-
terialist or antiphysicalist tendency in the philosophy of
mind recently. The three arguments that I will consider, in
their different ways, record the fact that qualia are indeed
a problem for physicalism, or worse, that the existence of
qualia is a counterexample to the claim of physicalism that
everything, including the mind, is physical. Proponents of
these arguments have sometimes been lumped together
by others as mysterians, but the label is unhelpful. None of
the arguments has as its conclusion the proposition that
anything is mysterious. Their only conclusion is the very
unmysterious proposition that physicalism is false. Before
looking at the arguments themselves, I will say something

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86    Chapter 4

about a view that shares with the three arguments the con-
clusion that physicalism is false, but has little or no appeal
for most people, though it was the dominant philosophy
in the religiously tinged philosophical atmosphere of more
than a century ago.


To be antimaterialist or antiphysicalist about the mind one
does not have to accept the larger claim made by idealism.
“Idealism” is a name given to a number of different phi-
losophies of mind, prominent in the nineteenth century,
and no single account of it has been universally accepted by
philosophers. Idealism is a metaphysics that tells us some-
thing about the nature of reality, as a metaphysics is sup-
posed to do. Just as physicalism tells us that everything is
physical, and materialism tells us that everything is mat-
ter, idealism tells us that everything is spiritual, or that
everything is mental. But what does this mean? A minimal
way of stating the claim is that reality is nonphysical, so
that idealism is the contrary of physicalism. At the least
idealism is antiphysicalist.

This formulation of idealism has a big advantage. If we
take reality to be everything that exists, then if the body
exists, idealism asserts that the body is nonphysical. So if
as we have seen the mind–body problem is the problem

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Just as physicalism tells
us that everything is
physical, and material-
ism tells us that every-
thing is matter, idealism
tells us that everything
is spiritual, or that
everything is mental.

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88    Chapter 4

of squaring the four propositions in our inconsistent tet-
rad, idealism easily solves the problem by denying the first
proposition, that the body is physical. For according to ide-
alism, nothing is physical. So there is no difficulty about
nonphysical and physical things interacting, since there
are no nonphysical things.

Two big questions remain. The first one is how any-
one could believe such a view. How could one believe that
the body is nonphysical? In one extremely common Eng-
lish language usage “the body” is taken to be the physi-
cal part of the human being or the organism, whether or
not there exists any part other than the physical part.
In this usage it would actually be contradictory to say
that the body is nonphysical, since that would be to say
that the physical part of the human being, whether or
not there exists any part other than the physical part, is

There is also a view called phenomenalism, however,
descended from the work of George Berkeley and David
Hume, which analyzes statements about bodies, including
human bodies, into statements about actual and possible
experiences or “ideas,” in the terminology of John Locke,
Berkeley, Hume, and the other British empiricists. If it
were successful, this program of translation would preserve
the truth of every statement about physical bodies, while
understanding them at bottom as statements about pos-
sible or actual experiences or sense data. To say that there

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  antimaterialism about the mind    89

is a sandwich in front of me is to say that there is a whitish-
brown trapezoid in my visual field, with yellowish fringes
(that’s the cheese hanging out of the edges of the sand-
wich), and so on, and also to say that the whitish-brown
trapezoid will disappear between two pink strips (that’s
my mouth, phenomenalistically interpreted) in the next
ten minutes, and so on.

A number of objections to phenomenalism have car-
ried a lot of weight, such a lot of weight that there are few
phenomenalists (or idealists) left. To my mind the biggest
objection is that there is no explanation as to why the
experiences appear in the sequences they do. Nonphe-
nomenalists will explain this by a very natural reference
to physical objects and their behavior. The reason the
perceptual trapezoid disappeared between the two pink
strips in my field of vision, says the nonphenomenalist,
is that the sandwich went into my mouth. But this expla-
nation is not available to the phenomenalists. They will
have to start by saying that the trapezoid disappeared be-
tween the pink strips because the sandwich went into my
mouth, but then for them this second statement comes
down to the statement that the trapezoid disappeared
between the pink strips. However, a phenomenalist who
takes the phenomena to be both sensed and unsensed
objects of experience, or what Bertrand Russell called sen-
sibilia, can deal with this worry. The forthcoming explana-
tions are just the regular explanations of physics and the

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other sciences, and of the common sense that goes along
with them.

So there are ways to defend phenomenalism at this
point, but to my mind a deeper question for idealism is
how mind and body interact, given that neither is physi-
cal. If we are idealists, bodies do not have linear dimen-
sions or a position in space. One still wants to know how
minds and bodies interact. There is something very un-
clear about what idealism asserts, both about mind–body
and body–mind causation or interaction. Physical things
interact with physical things because physical particles
push physical particles along. Does one thought interact
with another by mind-particles pushing mind-particles
along? But there are no mind-particles. Is it just a mat-
ter of magic, then? Behind these difficulties is a mystery
about mind–mind interaction. How do mental things, such
as feelings, interact with other mental things, such as
thoughts, since neither of them possesses physical mass
and energy to fuel the causing? This last question is of
course a question not just for idealism, and so I shall set
it aside as we look at the three arguments for antiphysi-
calism. Though the interaction of the mental with the
mental is a fascinating problem, it is not really a part of
the mind–body problem. The mind–body problem is not
the mind–mind problem, whatever light it may shed on the
mind–mind problem.

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  antimaterialism about the mind    91

Three Important Antiphysicalist Arguments

At the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of
the next, physicalism seems largely to have run its theo-
retical course as a solution to the mind–body problem. Al-
though most philosophers are probably physicalists today
in spite of this, when toward the end of the last century a
number of significant antimaterialist arguments appeared
(I discuss one from Thomas Nagel, one from David Chalm-
ers, and one from Frank Jackson), there was no unanimity
of response from the physicalists.2 It would be worthwhile
to have a study just of what the physicalist responses to
the arguments were and how they worked, what in Ger-
man is called a Rezeptionsgeschichte, a history of the recep-
tion of the arguments. The truth is that for physicalists
the Rezeption seems to have been all over the map. Most of
the critical responses were physicalist, of course, because
typically the antiphysicalists like me were happy to see the
arguments prospering philosophically, if generating con-
troversy is what philosophical prospering is.

It is also important to know something about these
arguments because they may tell us something about what
it is that has eluded physicalism, and, just as importantly,
they may tell us why it has eluded physicalism. The argu-
ments themselves do not offer a solution to the mind–body
problem, and they have been combined with a number of
different solutions. For example, some have taken Nagel’s

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argument, inaccurately in my view, as a support for simple
psychophysical dualism, whereas in reality it is an argu-
ment for skepticism about our grip on the mind–body
problem, combined with some intriguing hints about how
this skepticism can be overcome; Chalmers’s argument
has been offered in support of both functionalism (though
not about qualia) and dualism of all sorts, not just his own
“naturalistic dualism”; and so on.

Nagel’s argument is perhaps the most dramatic of the
three arguments, but it has the logically weakest conclu-
sion of the three. His conclusion is not that physicalism is
false, but that though it is true, we do not see how it could
be true. We do not understand how it could be true that our
experience is physical, much as someone leaving a chrysa-
lis in a box might not understand how it could turn into a
butterfly by morning. A physical explanation is objective,
but “the phenomenological features of experience”—qua-
lia—are subjective. They belong to a particular point of
view, which is ours, and they cannot be detached from that
point of view. The physical line of thought, however, will
“gradually abandon” that point of view, leaving us with no
understanding at all of the subjective.

Nagel asks us to imagine trying to understand what
it is like to be a bat. The subjective experience of a bat,
he claims, is one that is closed to us, with our entirely
external knowledge of it. Objective phenomena, such as
lightning and thunder, can be understood completely and

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  antimaterialism about the mind    93

objectively. The subjective experience of the alien charac-
ter of the bat’s consciousness can be understood neither
completely nor objectively.

It will not help to try to imagine that one has
webbing on one’s arms, which enables one to fly
around at dusk and dawn catching insects in one’s
mouth; that one has very poor vision, and perceives
the surrounding world by a system of reflected high-
frequency sound signals; and that one spends the
day hanging upside down by one’s feet in the attic.
Insofar as I can imagine this (which is not very far),
it tells me what it would be like for me to behave as
a bat behaves. But that is not the question. I want to
know what it is like for a bat to be a bat.3

It seems to me one could have a vivid hallucinogenic
experience, one that turned out to be exactly like the expe-
rience of a bat, though one might never know that it was
accurate. The hallucination might even include the experi-
ence of living in a cave with other bats, an experience that
one subsequently discovered to be completely accurate,
perhaps by visiting the cave. It is doubtful whether there is
any particular limit on what is imaginable, and that includes
what is logically impossible. Philosophers are more or less
agreed on the imaginability of the logically impossible.
Seen from this point of view, Nagel’s point really expresses

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the dependence of imagination on sense experience. His
problem is not the so-called other minds problem. That is
the problem, like the mind–body problem going back in its
most unregenerate form to Descartes, of how we can know
the mind of another, in addition to knowing the external
condition and behavior of that person’s body, presented to
us in experience. Nagel’s problem is rather the problem of a
systematic gap in our knowledge due to a particular biolog-
ical limitation, a limitation we have as a group or species.
We cannot know what it is like for bees to see ultraviolet
light, for example, without to some extent—exactly to the
extent that we come somehow to possess the ultraviolet
perceptual systems of the bee and cease to be ourselves—
becoming the bee.

However, one cannot argue that I cannot imagine what
it is like to be you on the ground that then I would have to
be you. With those we know well, perhaps especially when
they are in trouble, we can imagine without difficulty what
it is like to be them. We have a greater empathy than Nagel
allows. Indeed, if his argument works, it establishes that
we can never have any empathy at all, and that we are all
psychopaths. If empathy is what it is commonsensically
taken to be, which is to be able to feel the feelings that
another has, then empathy is logically impossible.

I do agree with Nagel, however, that our experience
cannot be reduced to the physical, though not for the rea-
son he gives. The phenomena of sound cannot be reduced

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  antimaterialism about the mind    95

to waves, color to electromagnetic radiation, and so on.
But this is not because the phenomena express a particu-
lar point of view or subjectivity. It is instead a result of the
simple fact that colors and sounds are not waves and they
possess properties that are incompatible with the proper-
ties of waves. Sounds do not have amplitude, for example,
though they do have volume, so it makes no sense to ask
for the amplitude of a particular sound, rather than the
volume. Colors do not have amplitude, though they do
have brightness, so it makes no sense to ask for the ampli-
tude of a particular color.

It may help to try to locate Nagel’s view on the map
of the mind–body problem given to us by the inconsistent
tetrad with which we started. Nagel certainly accepts that
the body is physical, and that the mind and the body in-
teract. He also sees that physical and nonphysical things
cannot interact. He accepts the gulf between the physical
and the phenomenological. So he is stuck with the ques-
tion how it can possibly be true that the mind is physi-
cal, which is what he wants to believe anyway. We cannot
understand, he thinks, how it could be true that the mind
is physical, though it is, despite the fact that we can un-
derstand and even have evidence that it is true. What is
left is just that there is a difficulty for physicalism, and
Nagel suggests that the path toward what he rather mys-
teriously calls an “objective phenomenology” is the right
one to take.

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I suspect that the concepts of imagination or concep-
tion and possibility may play very much the same role in
the Australian philosopher David Chalmers’s famous
zombie argument against physicalism as they do in Na-
gel’s argument. In Chalmers’s article of 1995, “Facing Up
to the Problem of Consciousness,” and in his 1996 book
The Conscious Mind, he argues that our world contains con-
sciousness, but that we can conceive of a world exactly like
it physically—physically identical—in which the creature
corresponding to Chalmers, say, and identical to him phys-
ically, does not have consciousness.4 This creature would
be a Chalmers zombie. From the possible existence of this
entirely physical creature, it follows that consciousness is
not physical—for if it were, the zombie Chalmers would
have consciousness in virtue of its physical characteristics,
in particular the neurophysiological ones. Just by exist-
ing it would be conscious. The zombie argument, by the
way, has a history before Chalmers that goes back earlier
in twentieth-century philosophy, and can ultimately be
traced to Descartes’s considerations concerning the pos-
sibility that the mind should exist without the body.

There are interesting arguments against the possi-
bility of zombies, but none of them are particularly con-
vincing, to my mind. For example, suppose that Chalmers
smells his morning coffee and says, “I smell coffee.” What
he says is true. But what about the zombie Chalmers? He
(or it) does not smell coffee, in the sense that he has the

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appropriate qualia, so when he says “I smell coffee,” in this
sense, his statement is false. So, the objection goes, the
two beings are not physically identical. But of course there
is no real difficulty here, since truth and falsity have never
been supposed to be physical concepts, or not by many,
rather than semantical ones, or if they have they should
not have been. The difference between the truth of what
Chalmers says and the falsity of what zombie Chalmers
says does not constitute a legitimate physical difference. It
consists of two logical relationships between what Chalm-
ers says and what his zombie twin says, and the facts.

Much of the argument directed against Chalmers’s
zombies has been about the possibility of zombies, and
has deployed sophisticated considerations concerning ab-
stract possibility. Are zombies possible? Could they exist?
If we say that they can, we seem to be begging the question
against physicalism, for we are assuming that the physical
zombie is not conscious, and that the physical part of the
zombie is not responsible for the zombie’s consciousness,
since there is no such thing. If on the other hand we say
that nonconscious zombies cannot exist, we seem to be
begging the question against antiphysicalism, by just as-
suming physicalism.

A simpler though inconclusive argument against
the zombie argument is that saying that the zombie is
not conscious begs the question against physicalism. A
central-state materialist, for example, will say that the

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physical part of Chalmers, which includes his brain, is
conscious, and that to say otherwise in a premise merely
states but does not argue for the denial of physicalism.
The trouble is that it will not do to assume that the zom-
bie is conscious, for by the same token that would assume
without argument that physicalism is true. It is not clear
where the victory lies here, but what Chalmers has to say
in later papers about a positive solution to the mind–body
problem for qualia seems to be a form of property dual-
ism. Mind and body interact, because they are not distinct,
so Chalmers’s position is not dualism. But the mind does
have nonphysical properties, as shown by the zombie ar-
gument. For Chalmers the mental does not reduce to the
physical. Chalmers is a property dualist, but with a differ-
ence. The difference is his treatment of the proposition
that the mind is nonphysical. In one sense Chalmers de-
nies this proposition. The mind is perfectly physical. But
in another sense, he accepts the proposition: the mind is
also nonphysical, in that claims about the mind do not re-
duce to claims about anything physical. We cannot take a
proposition about what I am thinking, say, and reduce it to
a proposition about the neural circuitry in the brain. Nev-
ertheless, my thinking is the neural circuitry in my brain.
This position is reminiscent of the earlier central-state ma-
terialist’s view that though “gene” does not mean “DNA,”
nevertheless the gene is DNA, and that though “mind”
does not mean “the relevant part of the central nervous

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  antimaterialism about the mind    99

system” (CNS), nevertheless the mind is the relevant part
of the CNS. Both the central-state materialists and Chalm-
ers detect an ambiguity in the first proposition that the
mind is nonphysical, and are able to have their cake and
eat it, both affirming and denying the proposition, in the
two different senses. In one sense, the property sense, the
proposition is true, and in another, the substance or thing
sense, the proposition is false.

It is still a troubling question, though, in what way
mental states could be physical states. This is not a mat-
ter of what we say or think, but of the way we are to con-
ceive of my thinking of my grandmother in Italy as a set of
neurons firing, or for that matter anything “emerging” out
of a set of neurons firing or “supervening” on them. That
is Nagel’s worry. We cannot imagine following a sequence
of events in which the sequence of the events of the neu-
rons firing followed far enough will continuously lead to
the event of my thinking of my grandmother in Italy. For
this reason, Nagel and those who followed him in a similar
line of thought (Chalmers, Frank Jackson, Joseph Levine,
and Colin McGinn are the most prominent) have been
lumped together as “mysterians,” who proclaim the mys-
tery of consciousness. But the word is not really a good fit
for Chalmers and Jackson, who would be better described
simply as antiphysicalist.

Chalmers has also discussed a form of panpsychism
that he calls “panprotopsychism.” Panpsychism is the view

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that fundamental physical objects have mental or conscious
states, so that the mental is built into the world alongside
the physical from the beginning. It is as though God could
not help creating parallel mental states whenever he cre-
ated the fundamental physical states. “Panprotopsychism”
looks like a load of typographical errors, but it is not. It is
the view that the fundamental physical objects have “pro-
toconscious” states. These are the precursors of conscious
states that, though they are not themselves conscious
states, can together cause conscious states to emerge from
their combination or collection. Collectively they are con-
scious states, but only collectively. Here it seems to me that
Chalmers’s view looks like a form of emergentism, or per-
haps epiphenomenalism. It has some of the difficulties of
those views, and perhaps the extra one of seeming to sug-
gest that somehow the protoconscious states are thought
to be in some more primitive sense already conscious. For
if they lack consciousness individually it really is difficult
to see how a collection of them could have it. (This sort
of difficulty is known as “the combination problem.”) And
Chalmers’s view seems to inflate the mind–body problem
to cosmic proportions. The relation between mind and
body will emerge for every part of the universe (this is the
“pan” bit) that has a psychic part.

Chalmers himself does write that he is not sure that the
arguments for panpsychism are sound, but he also is not
sure that they are not sound. His remarks, read in context,

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suggest at the least a tremendous sympathy with the argu-
ments for panpsychism, to the extent that he seems to be
giving his own view, whereas I do not feel the same rush of
excitement in his arguments going in the other direction.
His own project seems to be one of working out ways in
which physical and nonphysical things can interact, or do
something that plays the role of interaction. He offers, for
example, the hypothesis that information might play the
role of the fundamental something that has both physical
states and states that carry qualia. So information could
manifest itself in one way or the other, and this might be
regarded as interaction of a sort. It is an interesting specu-
lation, but no more, I think, because it is very hard to see
how a sequence of bits in a bitstream—traveling optical in-
formation, for example in a telecommunications network,
made up of a flicker of successive light and dark states at
a point in the fiber, or 0s and 1s—could turn itself into a
stream of qualia or consciousness. It would be an event of
biblical proportions.

Chalmers is prepared to concede, however, that his is
a very speculative theory, though it may just do work to
mitigate the epiphenomenal implications of the zombie
argument. The zombies behave physically like their con-
scious counterparts, but in that case there appears to be
a problem in understanding how consciousness has any
effect on the physical. Chalmers thinks as a result that
we must work toward seeing how consciousness and the

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physical can work together, or in what way it can be false
that physical and nonphysical things cannot interact or do
something as good as interact. I am not even a little bit con-
vinced by all this, because I just cannot see how something
digital like “information” (1s and 0s) could turn itself into
the color red. This really is just nonsense. The information
whizzing around in a CPU does not out of itself produce
red. The color arises on the computer monitor, not from
information as such, but from codes yielding coordinated
physical and optical effects in the phosphor dots, plus the
contribution of the eye, for example in the optical fusion of
red and green to produce yellow. (Yellow is not physically
present on a TV screen, as can be verified by examining it
with a good magnifying glass.) Which effects occur is de-
pendent on the information presented to the monitor, but
the color that appears does so for the usual physical and
psychological reasons detailed in the science of color, prin-
cipally from the explanation of how the electron beams
striking the phosphor dots produce different colors, not
from pure information theory.

An argument related to the zombie argument was pro-
posed by Frank Jackson, another Australian philosopher.
(Why, I wonder, have two-thirds of the best arguments
against physicalism come from Australians? Perhaps it is
because the previous generation of philosophers in Austra-
lia had more leading physicalists than anywhere else, apart
perhaps from the United States, so that the antiphysicalist

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arguments were a reaction to the prevailing view. Or per-
haps it is something in the beer.)

Of course, there are more than three arguments against
physicalism, but the three I discuss here have been among
the more influential and the most discussed. Jackson’s ar-
gument in “Epiphenomenal Qualia” is simplicity itself. He
asks us to imagine a brilliant color scientist, whom he calls
Mary. Mary is brought up and lives in a black-and-white
environment. She is “brilliant” in the sense that she pos-
sesses all the information given by a completed physical
science of color, including neuroscience. She has all of this
information at her fingertips. Now comes the day when
she opens the door and leaves her achromatic environ-
ment. She steps into the fully colored world. It seems that
she will acquire some new information, assuming that her
color vision system starts to work fairly quickly; she learns
something new. Perhaps we might wish to say, though
Jackson does not, that she finally learns what red is, what
blue is, and so on. In any case, she learns what these colors
look like. But if she has learned something new, and gained
information in addition to the totality of physical informa-
tion, then not all information is physical information.

In a separate argument in the same paper Jackson
also describes a character called Fred, who sees a color that
“standard human observers” do not see. All the physical
information in the world will not help an observer (I shall
call him F-red) who does not see this new color—perhaps

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it is a shade of red—to know what it is that Fred is seeing.
F-red is like Mary before she leaves her room. F-red has all
the physical information that there is or could be, but he
still does not know what Fred sees. (Jackson is of course
assuming that there could be a novel color, which is natu-
rally something that has been argued about.)

Both of Jackson’s arguments look valid, and if they are,
they establish that the mind is nonphysical, or at least that
we have nonphysical information about the mind. Some-
time after publishing his argument, however, however,
Jackson took it back. He had decided that it led to dualism
and that the dualism it led to is epiphenomenalist. This
meant that the qualitative states whose nonphysical char-
acter he had championed, though they exist, are without
effect on human behavior. There they are, but they have
no effects. Epiphenomenalism is hard to believe, however,
not least because, as we saw earlier, it has all the problems
of dualism, and more of its own. (Two-way epiphenome-
nalism might be better, but that is just dualist interaction-
ism.) As part of his self-apostasy Jackson came to believe
that sensory experience in general is representation, so that
what is important about it is the information it gives, not
its qualitative character. Or rather, its qualitative character
is representation.

Is this a good line to take? Suppose that there existed
a solipsistic two-entity universe, a world with only two
things in it: a perceiver, and the perceiver’s qualitative

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  antimaterialism about the mind    105

experience, a single quale. There is ex hypothesi nothing
for the quale to represent, but it seems undeniable that
the perceiver experiences it. We might think that he could
come to enjoy it.

One is bound to feel that the three antiphysicalist ar-
guments have something in common. Their conclusions
are not exactly the same, of course. Nagel’s argument has
the conclusion that we cannot see how our first proposi-
tion (“The mind is nonphysical”) can be false. Yet it is, be-
cause physicalism is true.

The zombie argument starts with the fact that the
Chalmers zombie is possible. If the zombie exists, he or
perhaps “it” is not conscious. It is physically identical with
the whole of Chalmers’s physicality. But there is more to
Chalmers; Chalmers is conscious. So consciousness is not
physical. Like Jackson’s argument, Chalmers’s argument
has as its conclusion the proposition that the mind is non-
physical and that physicalism is false. Jackson realized
quickly the epiphenomenalist implications of his argument
for the mind–body problem, and abandoned it. Chalmers
took the heroic line of trying to see ways in which dualism
could be true, and that is what has led him to consider pan-
psychism. His views come from someone who is no matter
what prepared to take the mind–body very seriously, and
panpsychism, though it may seem bizarre, is a reflection
of this seriousness.

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The mind–body problem is not going to be made to go
away easily, and neither is consciousness. Consciousness
may be less important in the general economy of the mind
than the more enthusiastic of the “qualia freaks” suppose,
but the three antimaterialist arguments attest to its real-
ity and importance. For Nagel, the mind is physical, but we
cannot see how that is possible, and that is the power of
the mind–body problem. If we cannot see how something
is possible, we are bound to respect the view of those who
believe that it is possible. But this is not a solution to the
mind–body problem. It is a declaration that physicalism is
true, but incomprehensible. The second half of this claim
is true, though, even if the first is false.

For Jackson and Chalmers, the qualitative part of the
mind is nonphysical, and so they are dualists. Jackson’s du-
alism is epiphenomenalist, and he found that in the end it
was not a position he could live with.

Chalmers has stuck to his guns, and he has toyed with
exotic theories such as panpsychism that build dualism
into the fabric of things. The difficulty here is that he is
not giving us an account of the very thing of which Des-
cartes could not give us an account. Even the panpsychist
ought to be able to give a coherent account of the relation
between the mental and the physical, and he does not. His
position is sound enough, to the extent that it does recog-
nize the “data” (the inconsistent tetrad) that fuel the origi-
nal problem. The trouble is that the mind–body problem

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The mind–body
problem is not going
to be made to go away
easily, and neither
is consciousness.

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metastasizes into the same problem across the entire uni-
verse. Why give us infinitely many more instances of the
mind–body problem than we already have? It is of course
open to the panpsychist to retort that if one instance of the
problem is solved, they all are, so the numbers do not mat-
ter. Either way, though, it is better to look for a solution
where one is to be found.

Let us look next at the scientific solutions that have
been offered to the problem.

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It would be impossible to consider all aspects of the scien-
tific study of mind and mentality as it has developed, even
very recently, such as work on memory, attention, and so
on, and so I shall take as the representative of the scien-
tific study of mind the recent work that has been done on
just of one part of the mind: consciousness. I think that
it will give us a fair idea of the way scientific thinking on
mind–body relations has been going, although there are
undoubtedly important differences between the scientific
study of consciousness and the scientific study of the other
topics relevant to the mind and the mind–body problem.

The 1990s saw a surge of interest among scientists and
philosophers in the topic of consciousness, after it had lan-
guished for about a hundred years. This is not a book about


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the history of ideas, but it is reasonable to speculate that
part of the explanation for the reappearance of interest in
consciousness may have been that the existing materialist
or physicalist philosophical theories had been played out
and found wanting. Consciousness had resisted the depre-
dations of reductionist philosophical theories, and so it be-
came acceptable to start to think freely about it again, from
a scientific point of view. What else was there to do? Phi-
losophers, of course, or some of them, had never stopped
thinking about it. The paradoxical result has been a resur-
gence of interesting and powerful materialist or physicalist
theories from the scientists, as they found themselves ac-
tually able to come to grips with the elusive, invisible, and
shapeless beast. The work of Giulio Tononi, for example,
proceeds in part by attempting to elucidate the concept of
consciousness, just as the philosophers had always done,
rather than taking it as an indefinable datum and trying
empirically to line up some neural correlates for it.

Descartes’s view was that the mind, thinking, and
the self are all the same thing, and it is a nonphysical
one: a conscious one. That view allowed him a sweeping
simplification and an extraordinarily penetrating view
of the status of mind in its connection with knowledge.
But it is clearly wrong: there are “parts” of the self that are
not conscious; some thinking goes on without the self; the
role of “the self” in consciousness is in any case unclear;
and so on.

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There are “parts”
of the self that are
not conscious; some
thinking goes on
without the self; the
role of “the self” in
consciousness is in any
case unclear.

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It is worth looking at the scientific accounts of con-
sciousness, if only because even at this late date they still
do not on the whole seem sensitive enough to the issues
that allowed the philosophers first to discover and then to
work on the mind–body problem.

Baars and the Global Workspace Theory

As early as the 1980s Bernard Baars had begun to propose
the “global workplace theory” of consciousness, and he has
written about his own theory extensively since then, both
by himself and with others. The theory remains a com-
pletely physicalist one, as I see it, in spite of the suggestive
Cartesian imagery that Baars is eager to use. He writes, for
example, about a conscious “inner theater,” onto which, or
better into which, information derived from the senses is
“projected.” The phrase “inner theater” derives from Gil-
bert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind, and it was intended by Ryle
to be part of a mocking characterization of Descartes’s con-
ception of the mind and its relations to the body. Ryle had
also described “the Cartesian Myth,” with equal distaste, as
“the Myth of the Ghost in the Machine.” The reason Baars
is relaxed about the dualist imagery, including the descrip-
tion of consciousness as a spotlight in a dark theater, is
that he actually conceives the global workspace entirely in
terms of the physical activity of neuronal cells.

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  SCienCe and the Mind–Body proBleM    113

There is, he claims, a network of cells in the brain, which
he calls “the global workspace.” It is rather like a working
blackboard onto which various images and statements
are “projected.” (This of course raises the question of the
relationship between the images and statements and the
firing of the neurons, which is the mind–body problem!)
Some of the images and statements are erased. But some
survive. If cells from the separate regions of the brain, such
as the regions dealing with visual consciousness, auditory
consciousness, and so on, all of which are more or less lo-
calized, provide signals to the global workspace, and these
signals are chosen and broadcasted by the decentralized
network, then Baars claims we have consciousness of the
information that is sent out.

It is a defect of Baars’s view that what we are con-
scious of is neither things nor qualia, but information. It
is however also not clear whether it is the mere presence
of information in the global workspace that constitutes, or
provokes consciousness, or whether it is the broadcasting
itself that is the consciousness.

Baars strenuously denies the relevance of his theory
to the “hard problem” of consciousness, but then it is dif-
ficult to see then how it could be a theory of consciousness
at all. Baars seems in fact to favor a kind of emergentism in
which consciousness emerges from the global workspace,
when strictly what his theory entails is the identity theory:

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consciousness is the global workspace at the time of the

Another puzzling aspect of the theory is that the in-
coming sensory signals do not have to end up in a single
spatial location, as the global workspace is distributed
throughout the brain. One might wonder why the pres-
ence of information in different locations within the global
network would count as integrated enough to be con-
sciousness. Still, where the active cells are to be found is
presumably an empirical question, and it is also an equally
empirical question in psychophysics whether activity in
the global workspace is indeed associated with conscious-
ness. Recently, after a quarter of a century, researchers
have found a certain amount of what may be evidence for
Baars’s theory. In 2009, recordings from electrodes already
in place in the brains of patients suffering from epilepsy
showed an increased coordinated activity over a large part
of the cerebral cortex, which has especially dense connec-
tions, during conscious perception. On the other hand, this
evidence could also be evidence for several other theories,
among them the ones discussed later on in this chapter.

One of the interesting things about Baars’s theory
is what it has to say about the function of consciousness.
What consciousness does, according the global workspace
theory, is to integrate and select information, linking large
numbers of different neural networks, and to make the in-
tegrated information available for decision making, action,

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deliberation, imagination, and so on. The important thing
that the theory has to offer is the proposal that what is
placed in the global workspace in short-term memory is
subsequently available, though not for long (for a time on
the order of 100 milliseconds), to these other psychologi-
cal processes. The later processes take the material of con-
sciousness, the output data from the workspace, as their
material, and use it in their own characteristic ways.

This is the primary functional role of consciousness:
to allow a theater architecture to operate in the brain,
in order to integrate, provide access, and coordinate
the functioning of very large numbers of specialized
networks that otherwise operate autonomously.1

From this point of view, however, it looks as though what
Baars is proposing is also functionalism. The concept of
the global workspace is a not the concept of a physical place
in the brain, but of functional relationships between what
is happening in the various networks. What makes his the-
ory so hard to follow is that it is a mixture of emergentism,
the identity theory, and functionalism, and Baars shows
no awareness at all that his view mixes up incompatible
philosophical theories of mind.

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Crick and Koch, the 35–70 Hz Hypothesis,
and the Claustra

The mind is not, however, particularly unified, in the sense
that, pace the global workspace theory, one thing goes on in
it perfectly independently of another. A stream of discon-
nected thoughts, some unconscious, can be interrupted
by a memory, or the results of an unconscious calculation
can suddenly present themselves for no apparent reason.
“Oh! So that’s the answer!” we say. The unity of the mind,
whatever exactly it might be taken to mean, is partial and
relative to a time and to a place, and to the previous state
of the mind, and no doubt to other things as well. I take all
these to be empirical facts.

Many have also taken it to be an empirical fact,
something observable, in some way, that the same thing
is not true of consciousness. Consciousness is unified. It
presents itself as one “field” of experience; or at least so
it is thought. I am skeptical of this claim, and the
metaphor of the “field” adds little, or nothing, or less than
nothing, to it.

One has only to think of the fading of visual awareness
at the edges of what one can see to realize that even visual
consciousness is not a monolith. Its intensity fades with
age, it has holes in it, such as the blind spot, and its power
can vary depending on mood. There are also phenomena
such as visual agnosia, the inability to recognize objects,

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that interfere with it. And there is sleep, which knocks
great holes in the temporal unity of consciousness.

There is a strong linguistic element to the claim that
consciousness “presents” itself as any sort of unified
“field”—what, after all, would a disunified field be? The
linguistic element here is that “consciousness” is not only
a noun but also an adverb when followed by a preposition:
“I was conscious of a large cow behind the hedge.” Or it
can be followed by a relative pronoun introducing a noun
clause, such as “that”: “I became conscious that I had been
deceived.” So the objects of consciousness are bound in
good grammar to be there, delivered to the subject, in con-
sciousness, unless the claim to consciousness is false. It is
rather as if one had a concept, anything that’s in the bag,
and then, looking at all the things in the bag, made the
surprising discovery of the “field” of the bag, or the “unity
of all the things in the bag,” or “the unity of bagness.” If
something is not in the bag, then it is not part of this unity.
And if the elements of consciousness were not conscious,
then they would lie outside consciousness, and not be inte-
grated into the unified field. So the unity of consciousness
seems to be just an artifact of the grammar of “conscious.”

There is another obvious problem here. The bag has a
material, say, sackcloth, which literally contains the things
in the bag. But consciousness has no material. It needs
none, for there is no danger that the “elements” of con-
sciousness will fall out of consciousness if their containing

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material ceases to contain them—for then they would sim-
ply not be elements of consciousness.

The linguistic type of view I have been giving here is
not at all a popular one today, though it might well have
found some favor fifty years ago. Some cognitive scientists
have tried to pin down what they take to be the phenom-
enon of the unity of consciousness by contracting it into a
narrower and apparently more tractable problem known
as “the binding problem.” Suppose I am looking at a red
square and a blue circle. Somehow, according to these cog-
nitive scientists, I end up seeing what is actually there (a
red square and a blue circle), and not a red circle and a blue
square; I see all the elements organized in the right way,
rather than as a jumbled collection.

Then there is the larger “intermodal” binding problem.
Visual elements find themselves within consciousness, but
so do auditory elements, tactile elements, and all the rest.
The deliverances of all the different sense and of all the
contents of our minds come together in consciousness.
What brings all these different things together into one

The difficulty addressed by both nonintermodal and
intermodal binding is that the areas of the brain that deal
with, say, color and shape, or color and sound, are com-
pletely different areas. Color information is processed in
the brain areas V1, the primary visual cortex, V2 and V4,
whereas shape is dealt with in LOC, the lateral occipital

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cortex, which deals with object processing or shape. In-
deed, there is evidence from fMRI (functional magnetic
resonance imaging) suggesting that V1 activity is actually
suppressed by LOC activity.2 Color information and shape
information are separated in the brain. They presumably
must be brought back together. Where in the brain does
this occur? And how are they brought together in the
right way, so that the red square and the blue circle are not
turned into a blue square and a red circle?

It may be, of course, that the answer is that they are
not brought back together anywhere, or by any means, in
the brain. This would certainly interest the philosophers,
but it is fair to say that it would be a disappointment to the
scientists, and it would leave unanswered the question of
why it is that we see a red square and a blue circle rather
than a blue square and a red circle. On the other hand, it is
difficult to see what help it would be to bring all the infor-
mation together in one physical place in the brain.

It would certainly be a wonderful thing to find the an-
swers to such questions at a stroke, empirically and scien-
tifically, since (1) inspired guesswork is almost certain to
be wrong, and (2) the mechanism by which the red square
and the blue circle are put back together in the human
brain is not the sort of problem that will yield to guess-
work rather than careful physiological work and cognitive
science. They are the sort of questions to which Francis
Crick devoted the later part of his life at the Salk Institute,

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working with Christof Koch, in pursuit of a mechanistic
or physicalist understanding of consciousness based on
neuronal activity. However, they gave not one but two an-
swers, answers that are actually inconsistent.

The earlier hypothesis that Crick and Koch advanced
appeared in a paper published in 1990.3 “At any one mo-
ment,” they wrote, “some active neuronal processes cor-
relate with consciousness, while others do not. What is the
difference between them?” Here Crick and Koch distinguish
between “neuronal processes” and consciousness, which
seems to make them dualists. And in The Astonishing Hy-
pothesis, Crick wrote that “our minds—the behavior of our
brains—can be explained by the interactions of nerve cells
(and other cells) and the molecules associated with them.”4
So on the one hand we have the “behavior of our brains”
and on the other the “our minds,” which can be “explained”
by the interactions of the nerve cells. This sounds like epi-
phenomenalism. The impression is reinforced when we
realize that Crick and Koch are looking for the “neural cor-
relates” of consciousness, or “NCC,” as they are sometimes
called. For if x and y are correlated, then x ≠ y. One thing
cannot be correlated with itself. It is identical to, or with,
itself. It takes two to correlate.

In their 1990 paper, Crick and Koch endorsed the
hypothesis that what differentiated the cells that make
consciousness from those that do not is the frequency at
which the consciousness-making cells fire—between 35

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Hz and 70 Hz, or “40 Hz” for short. When the cells fire
synchronously, or alter their membrane voltage (the dif-
ference in electric potential between the inside and the
outside of the cell) all together, as one, behold: conscious-
ness! “It seems likely that, for one reason or another,
certain neurons in the cortical areas involved tend to os-
cillate at around 40 Hz.” By 1998, in an article written as
a “Commentary” piece for the journal Nature, Crick and
Koch were prepared to concede that the idea was wrong:
“We no longer think that synchronized firing, such as the
so-called 40 Hz oscillations, is a sufficient condition for
the NCC [the neural correlates of consciousness].”5 Their
new approach was to imagine cells or the cortical neural
networks that run on them to form temporary groups or
coalitions of functionality, and it is these coalitions, when
they form, that are the basis of consciousness. This seems
a healthy development in its way. Synchronization, after
all, by itself, does nothing. We can imagine the instru-
ments of the orchestra all playing in time, to the beat, and
synchronized to the conductor. But this will not tend to
“integrate” the music even slightly if the members of the
orchestra are spatially separated. If the violins are in Syd-
ney and the cellos are in Reykjavik, there is no binding.
The instruments must also be spatially integrated for the
“information” to be bound. And even if there is a general
spatial binding, one can imagine all the telephones in New
York City ringing at the same time with the same beat or

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frequency and volume. Would this have the slightest ten-
dency to produce anything resembling consciousness or
a higher-level phenomenon? It seems clear that it would
not integrate the ringings at all, though a lot of people
would separately get annoyed.

Another coordination problem remains once the 40Hz
hypothesis has been abandoned, namely, how are the tem-
porary coalitions of neurons able to synchronize their
activity? Here, in Crick’s last published paper, also coau-
thored with Christoph Koch, which appeared in 2005, af-
ter Crick’s death, he and Koch explored the physiology and
anatomy and functionality of the claustrum, a thin layer of
neurons below the neocortex. The title of their paper was
“What Is the Function of the Claustrum?” Their answer is
metaphorical, as they themselves admit. It is the analogy

of a conductor coordinating a group of players in
the orchestra, the various cortical regions. Without
the conductor, the players can still play but they fall
increasingly out of synchrony with each other. The
result is a cacophony of sounds.6

Evidence in favor of such a hypothesis is the extraordi-
nary connectivity of the claustrum, and Crick and Koch
argue for an experimental investigation into its role in con-
sciousness. There is no doubt that such an investigation
might advance our knowledge of the role of the claustrum,

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but would it advance our understanding of consciousness,
and of the mind–body problem? Crick and Koch’s proposal
runs headlong into the problem that all interactionist du-
alists face, when they offer some physical structure or
system (say, V1 and V2 for visual consciousness), or the
pineal gland, or the claustrum, as the locus of interaction:
Why should this particular structure or set of neurons be
the site of the interaction? Or how can the claustrum ac-
tivate the mind if proposition (1) is true and the mind is
nonphysical? Crick and Koch’s view is actually an incon-
sistent and unstable mixture of central-state materialism
and an interactionist dualism with an emergentist slant.
The question they do not answer is how the claustrum can
project its activity into the mind, or how the activity of
these neurons can have an effect on consciousness. There
is no solution to the mind–body problem here, and we are
back with Descartes. The claustrum may be a better bet
than the pineal gland, but we still want to know how the
neurons, no matter how well coordinated, could produce
mind and consciousness. It seems to me that Crick and
Koch did not have the measure of the true difficulty of the
problem, and the kind of problem it is: the logical part of it
must be solved before the scientific and psychological ele-
ments of a solution can begin to have any traction, though
they may be true and interesting in their own right. It may
be that whenever there is consciousness there are coali-
tions of neurons contributing their firing sequences in a

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The logical part of [the
mind–body problem]
must be solved before
the scientific and
psychological elements
of a solution can begin
to have any traction.

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way orchestrated by the claustrum. That may be true, but
it does not by itself give even a hint of a solution to the
mind–body problem, any more than the fact that the pi-
neal gland is light in weight and its parts easily moved gave
Descartes a datum with which to address the problem. It is
not as though consciousness could lift light things, but had
trouble with heavy things.

Tononi and Integrated Information Theory

Shortly after the appearance of Crick and Koch’s final pa-
per on consciousness in 2005, Giorgio Tononi, an Italian
psychiatrist who subsequently collaborated with Koch,
produced a theory of consciousness in what he described
as a “manifesto.”7 Tononi’s philosophy of consciousness,
which grew out of earlier work with Gerald Edelman, is
straightforwardly functionalist. Tononi claims that there
are processes in the cerebral cortex that integrate informa-
tion, and that the information they integrate is conscious-
ness. He is careless with the way he words his theory, on
occasion referring, as many scientists and philosophers
do, to NCC or the neural correlates of consciousness, as
though by itself this phrase did some useful work. The
trouble here is again that the “correlates” of something are
not the same thing as the things with which they corre-
late. Radar blips are the correlates of airplanes or ships,

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but this means that there are two sets of things, not one:
radar blips, and airplanes or ships. Tononi also refers to
a “correspondence” between integrated information and
consciousness. This raises a doubt as to whether Tononi’s
view is that the brain processes which integrate information
are consciousness, or whether it is the integrated informa-
tion itself that is consciousness, or whether, whatever it is,
integrated information only corresponds to consciousness.

Tononi’s statement in his 2008 paper “Consciousness
as Integrated Information” could not be clearer, however,
though it is inconsistent with what he states elsewhere.
He writes, “Consciousness is integrated information.”
That makes Tononi a functionalist, rather than a physical-
ist, for the amount and the degree of the integration of the
information are not strictly physical properties, to be stud-
ied by physicists; they are computational or information-
processing properties. The same information could be
integrated in the same way by all sorts of different physi-
cal systems.

Tononi asks us to imagine a camera with a large number
of pixels whose information is unintegrated. The informa-
tion at every point from the imaged scene is independent
of the information at every other point. It is atomic. The
camera is certainly not conscious. Furthermore, a single
photodiode representing the presence or absence of light
is not conscious of the presence of light, says Tononi, be-
cause it is not registering the absence of the alternatives,

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such as color or shape. It does not represent light as light
rather than color or shape. This clever idea puts Tononi in
a position to say why he thinks that the single photodiode
receiving a single kind of information is not conscious.

What if, he asks, every pixel were able to register infor-
mation in multiple possible dimensions, unlike the diode,
and able to pass information continuously to every other
pixel, so that the state of each pixel were to become respon-
sive to the state of every other? With this kind of recep-
tion of multidimensional information and its integration,
Tononi thinks, we are approaching the conscious state, or
perhaps we even have the conscious state.

Though it is perhaps true that consciousness is more
or less integrated, in the sense that it is not completely
disjointed, the converse does not follow. It does not fol-
low that if something is integrated, and this includes in-
formation, it has to manifest consciousness. It is hard to
see why information, or bits—1s and 0s—flying around
in whatever form should be the same thing as conscious-
ness. The obvious thought experiment is to construct a
machine with as much information in its various “recep-
tive” parts as you please, which yet remains a machine, in
the sense that it lacks consciousness. Is such a thing pos-
sible? If so, and it seems to be so, it is hard to see what
the link is between large amounts of integrated informa-
tion, by whatever measure, and the kind of awareness that
human beings possess. The measure of the integration of

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information that Tononi uses is represented by the symbol
“Φ,” and he brings considerable mathematical sophistica-
tion to connecting Φ with the standard concepts of infor-
mation theory and processing.

Φ by itself does not introduce the manifest richness
of consciousness, especially the perceptual consciousness
that is Tononi’s main area of interest. One can imagine a
very highly integrated system of information pathways in-
tegrating rather little information or input. So the theory
of integrated information introduces a second element of
the measure for consciousness, represented by the letter
“Q” for “quality space” or quale. Quality spaces have re-
ceived an enormous amount of technical attention since
the beginning of psychophysics during the nineteenth
century, and they have been developed as tools for scal-
ing in all the separate sensory modalities. Color space,
for example, is a three-dimensional array whose dimen-
sions are hue, saturation, and brightness—all psychologi-
cal concepts. The space is constructed by positioning just
noticeably different samples of color next to one another.
The geometry of the result is in some ways surprising: an
irregularly shaped double cone, with maximum brightness
at the top of the cone, darkness at the bottom, and at the
off-set “equator” a circuit of hues. Having a high Q-value
means that picking a point or an area in the space excludes
a huge amount of other possible positions and other in-
formation, and so reduces options (or “uncertainty,” as

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Tononi calls it) by a very great amount. For the standard
observer there are by some estimates as many as eleven
million just noticeably different points in color space.
What this means is that Q has a very high value for a point
position in color space, and conveys a lot of information.
Q captures the formal complexity of the space. But here
traditional philosophical worries about formal relations
will intrude. We can imagine a space with exactly the
same structure as color space that is isomorphic, given the
structure of the honeybee’s polarization receptors, to a
space (a Poincaré sphere) representing the structure of the
honeybee’s experience, if any, of the qualia of polarization.
Honeybees are highly sensitive to the angle of polarized
light, and they use it to navigate very successfully even
on very cloudy days. Suppose (which is not true) that the
polarization and color spaces are isomorphic. Then Q will
not deliver qualitative experience to the honeybee, but
simply a formal measure of the geometry of the quality
space. And the possession of this geometry by a structure
is not at all the same thing as possession of the conscious
experience itself.

Now we are to imagine that Q represents a measure
for all the qualitative spaces of the different human sen-
sory modalities: touch, taste, smell, color, shape, and so
on, including all sorts of dedicated cells for things such as
facial recognition. Though what we get is a very interest-
ing and very complex geometrical structure that represents

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consciousness, it is still not the same thing as conscious-
ness. Tononi has substituted a structural analogue of
consciousness for consciousness itself. It is as though, in
selling us a large building, Tononi were to give us an archi-
tect’s elevation and floor plans and take himself to have
sold us the building itself.

However, Tononi does develop a set of essentially
mathematical concepts for describing consciousness, and
this is an achievement. The mathematical description be-
gins with axiom-like propositions about the structure of
consciousness: (i) consciousness should have different
parts, so that it is not an undifferentiated mass; (ii) the
information presented should be genuine information
about the world; and (iii) it should rule out as many op-
tions as possible. That is, it should be “exclusionary.” Light
versus dark information does not produce consciousness,
but achromatic light versus dark versus green versus yel-
low versus square versus round … approaches something
like the richness of consciousness. Furthermore, (iv) the
differentiated information should exist in a single field;
it should not be disjoint, as it presumably is in subjects
whose two cerebral hemispheres have been severed from
one another.

Perhaps it took a working psychiatrist with skills such
as Tononi’s to do the hard thinking about representing
the phenomenology of consciousness mathematically.
Tononi’s work deserves even more appreciation when we

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  SCienCe and the Mind–Body proBleM    131

understand the way in which the concept of integrated in-
formation can be mapped onto the brain functions associ-
ated with consciousness. He points out that the cerebral
cortex has a high Φ, and is differentiated according to the
different sensory modalities. Damage to a large part of the
cortex will be associated with loss of consciousness and a
vegetative state, or with a loss of the specific kind of con-
sciousness associated with specific areas in the cortex.

Michael Graziano and the Attention Schema

A few years after the appearance of Crick and Koch’s
neuron-based scientific theory of the neural correlates
of consciousness, and Tononi’s sophisticated mathemati-
cal theory of integrated information, a wider theory
emerged, equally scientific, though in a different way. It
appealed to social, perceptual, evolutionary biological,
and information-processing considerations rather than
just to the behavior of the neurons. This may seem, to a
traditional intellectual sensibility rooted in nineteenth-
century science, an unhealthy mixture, a witch’s brew of
vague cognitive scientific speculations. In fact, the theory
of Michael Graziano and his colleagues at Princeton is a
representative example of the kind of thing that goes on
in the cognitive sciences today, and it is fully consistent
with the claim that consciousness appears where there is

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132    Chapter 5

neurophysiological computation. The theory looks at the
organization of what the neurons are doing into systems
with different functions.

Graziano calls the central construct of his theory the
“attention schema.”8 If it offers any promise of success,
that is not just because of the outline of the information-
processing structure of the theory, or of the evolutionary
history with which it connects, but also because of the deft
philosophical conjuring trick that turns the information-
processing structure inside out and, as Graziano and his
colleagues see it, offers a philosophical escape from the
mind–body problem. Let us first consider what the theory
states, and then go on to consider what sort of philosophy
it is and whether the philosophy is a success.

First of all, Graziano thinks that the hard problem of
consciousness is easy, and that the easy problem is very
hard. The suggestion is an interesting one. What he has in
mind is that we say that we have consciousness, but that
is all that we can say about it. All we can say is that we say
we have it. Qualia are ineffable, in the traditional terminol-
ogy. What is it like to be conscious? Well, it is like what it is
to be like that (there follows and inner pointing) since that
is what consciousness is. The only property of qualia and
states of consciousness is that they are, one could say. On
Graziano’s view, that is easy to explain, though the details
are hard. It is easy in principle to explain why and when
we say of ourselves “I have consciousness in my head.” The

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computation involved in this sort of attribution is more
limited, rather than more complex, than the computation
involved in the easy problems of consciousness. It is a very
simple thing to say, “I have this.”

Along with birds and other animals, we have atten-
tion. We can turn our attention to one thing and away
from another. Attention here is not a sort of stream of
con sciousness squirting out of the eyes, and it is not mov-
ing one’s eyes from one spot to another, although it may
involve looking in a different direction. To attend to this
rather than that is to suppress information about that and
leave only information about this. To perform this infor-
mation-processing trick we have to be able to control the
information and keep track of it all. We do this by making
a simplified model or mental picture or schema of our atten-
tion, like a general keeping track of his armies with a set
of model soldiers and little metal tanks on a table. This is
more useful than trying to keep track of all the informa-
tion. It is a sort of summary or simplification of what is
going on.

Consciousness is a simplified model or schema of the
outline of the activities of our attention filters. And the
same computational techniques that allow us to construct
a model of ourselves enable us to construct what is called a
“theory of mind” for others.

We say proudly of ourselves, just as we do of others, “I
(or he) has consciousness,” but we cannot express anything

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more about it. Graziano recounts an amusing story told to
him by a psychiatrist friend about a patient suffering from
the belief that he had a squirrel in his head. When he was
asked such things as how big it was, whether it would show
up on an MRI, and how much it needed to eat, the patient
would deflect the question. But he continued to insist that
though he could say nothing else about it, he had a squirrel
in his head. This, says Graziano, is like our own situation
with respect to the thing we think is inside our heads: con-
sciousness. We can say that it is there, but nothing more.

Graziano also points out that it is remarkably easy
to attribute consciousness to puppets and ventriloquist’s
dummies. They really do seem to have consciousness, or
more personality perhaps, than they should. We are pre-
pared to say, “They are conscious,” without the slightest
idea of what the consciousness that we attribute to them is.

It is unclear whether Graziano’s claim is that the pres-
ence of the attention schema itself is consciousness, or
whether it is that the presence of the attention schema plus
the computation or “realization” that it is present, which
is consciousness. Graziano says both things, sometimes al-
most simultaneously, but they are genuinely inconsistent.
In either case, however, it seems reasonable to suppose
that we could build a machine with the structure that Gra-
ziano gives for consciousness. Such a machine would filter
information, and thereby have attention in the informa-
tional sense. It would then create and update a simplified

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  SCienCe and the Mind–Body proBleM    135

model representing the state and structure of its atten-
tion, it would deploy this schema to determine the pres-
ence of “other minds,” and it would signal to itself, and to
others, the presence of the schema. But it might not have
consciousness. Whether it did or not would seem to de-
pend on how things are for the machine, not on the mere
presence of the psychological and physiological informa-
tion-processing sort that Graziano offers.

Concluding Observations

Of the four scientific theories I have considered so far (the
global workspace theory, the hypothesis of Crick and Koch,
Tononi’s account of integrated information, and Grazia-
no’s attention schema), none has much independent philo-
sophical interest, in the sense that none introduces a new
philosophical theory.

Baars’s global workspace theory is functionalism,
since anything that plays the role of the global workspace
and does the work of consciousness would presumably
by his own argument be consciousness. Or perhaps it is
emergentism. Or perhaps it is central-state materialism.
It is hard to say. The “astonishing hypothesis” of Francis
Crick is a straightforward form of the identity theory, or
central-state materialism. In Tononi’s work, consciousness
is the integration of information, another functionalist

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