Monday, July 03, 2006

"A tiny minority"

John W. Loftus said:

“Steve, I never said philosophers don't discuss dualism. And there are still a small minority who defend it. [JP Moreland's substance dualism is simply laughed at].”

If he bothered to follow the links, he’d see that it’s discussed as a live option with heavy-duty philosophical patronage.

And whether it’s a “tiny” minority position depends, I guess, on your definition of minority and majority.

Also, is popularity a philosophical criterion?

Finally, according to David Chalmers:


Jaegwon Kim comes out

Jaegwon Kim's new book, Physicalism, or Something Near Enough, was recently published. This book is full of interesting arguments about the mind-body problem. But it is especially notable for the fact that Kim, often seen as an arch-reductionist, comes out of the closet as a dualist. In the last couple of pages of the book, he embraces epiphenomenalist property dualism about qualia, combined with functionalist reductionism about intentional states. The position is not too far from a view that is often attributed to The Conscious Mind, though as a matter of fact I'm much less confident about both the epiphenomenalism (about the phenomenal) and the functionalism (about the intentional) than Kim is. Here's a review of the book by Andrew Melnyk, and here's a sample chapter.

As the title suggests, Kim softpedals his debut as a dualist a little. Here's the last paragraph of the book:

“The position is, as we might say, a slightly defective physicalism -- physicalism manque but not by much. I believe that this is as much physicalism as we can have, and that there is no credible alternative to physicalism as a general worldview. Physicalism is not the whole truth, but it is the truth near enough, and near enough should be good enough.”

(As someone suggested, this calls to mind a counterfactual book called Straight, Or Something Near Enough. With subtitle: I Just Fool Around With Guys on Weekends. "The position is, as we might say, a slightly defective heterosexuality -- heterosexuality manque but not by much. Near enough should be good enough.")

Tone aside, this makes at least three prominent materialists who have abandoned the view in the last few years. Apart from Kim, there's Terry Horgan and Stephen White (balanced, of course, by Frank Jackson moving the other way). One still sometimes sees the claim that almost everyone these days is a materialist (e.g. in Peter Carruthers' new book, p. 5: "Just about everyone now working in this area is an ontological physicalist, with the exception of Chalmers (1996) and perhaps a few others"). I don't think one can get away with saying this any more. Apart from the four counterexamples just mentioned, here are a few other contemporary anti-materialists about consciousness who come quickly to mind: Joseph Almog, Torin Alter, George Bealer, Laurence BonJour, Paul Boghossian, Tyler Burge, Tim Crane, John Foster, Brie Gertler, George Graham, W.D. Hart, Ted Honderich, Steven Horst, Saul Kripke, Harold Langsam, E.J. Lowe, Kirk Ludwig, Trenton Merricks, Martine Nida-Rumelin, Adam Pautz, David Pitt, Alvin Plantinga, Howard Robinson, William Robinson, Gregg Rosenberg, A.D. Smith, and Richard Swinburne. There are plenty of others, and then at least as many again agnostics. If I had to guess, I'd guess that the numbers within philosophy of mind are 50% materialist, 25% agnostic, 25% dualist.

Of course, sociology isn't the important thing here. Philosophy is. So as philosophy, let me recommend Kim's book as a thoughtful and insightful treatment of the mind-body problem that's well worth reading.


1 comment:

  1. Another dualist is Edward Feser whose recently PHILOSOPHY OF MIND is quite good and has an extensive list of contemporary dualists such as Taliaferro, Hasker, Popper & Eccles.