Archive for the ‘Type-Q Materialism’ Category

Zombie Roundup Roundup

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Here’s a roundup of recent blogospheric zombie roundups: Siris’s, my mind on books’s, and my own.

My $.02 on zombiology: either we know that we’re not zombies or we don’t know that we’re not zombies. If we know that we’re not zombies, then physicalism is true (see “Transcending Zombies“). If we don’t know that we’re not zombies, then physicalism is true (see “Type-Q Materialism“).

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Roger F. Gibson, Jr.

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Last night, at the University of Missouri, Columbia Symposium on the work of W.V.O. Quine and Roger Gibson, Chase Wrenn announced the festschrift for Roger Chase has been editing. My and Josh Weisberg’s paper, Type-Q Materialism is forthcoming in that volume (link to uncorrected page proofs). Other contributors include Alex Orenstein, Bob Barrett, Dagfinn Follesdal, David Henderson, Ernie Lepore, Eve Gaudet, Joe Ullian, Josefa Toribio, Ken Shockley, Lars Bergstrom, Richard Creath, and Robert Thompson.

One of the articles I’m especially excited about is Thompson’s. Here’s the title and abstract from his website:


Gibson and Quine: Experimental philosophy and the reciprocal containment of epistemology and ontology:
One of Roger Gibson’s most valuable philosophical contributions is his interpretation of W.V. Quine as a systematic philosopher. Much of his work has consisted in laying out Quine’s central themes and showing the various relationships among them. Gibson invariably highlights a terse claim in Quine, one which has been passed over by most philosophers, and shows how this claim embodies a crucial relationship among the Quinean themes. In this paper, I want to highlight one such claim: that for Quine, epistemology and ontology reciprocally contain one another. I will use this claim to analyze recent work in experimental philosophy which suggests an instability in the intuitions to which analytic epistemologists appeal. While it may seem that this empirical investigation is an example of Quinean naturalized epistemology, par excellence, I will argue that the results are much less interesting than they seem, if we are to be thoroughgoing Quineans. These results may offer more evidence that there is no non-natural source for knowledge, but they are only significant if one adopts a theory of explanation and confirmation which is radically non-Quinean. Given that Quine was not above offering thought experiments of his own, I will attempt to give a more thoroughly Quinean account of these results.

Anyway, Josh and I and a bazillion other zombies are descending upon Tuscon AZ for the Toward a Science of Consciousness conference next week. If you’ll be in town, dear Brain Hammer reader, please say ‘hi’.

What Dualism and Materialism Have in Common

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

In “Giving Dualism its Due“, William Lycan maintains his materialism while also stating that there are few convincing arguments for materialism and against dualism. Two things I find oddly missing from Lycan’s discussion are any mention of Quine (who gave many arguments for materialism) and any mention of idealism (against which both the materialist and the dualist must defend their belief in physical bodies).

Current dualists and materialists would do well to reexamine their common belief in the reality of the kind of physical ontology denied by idealists. In our “Type-Q Materialism“, Josh Weisberg and I write:

Most discussions in contemporary philosophy of physicalism, qualia, and other issues pertinent to the mind-body problem proceed against a seldom discussed yet shared background assumption of the existence of physical objects, while what’s debated is whether to affirm the existence of anything else, for instance, qualia. However, contemporary thinkers would do well to examine the grounds for belief in physical objects and question whether existing considerations in favor of so-called qualia are consistent with such grounds.
Another way of framing the issues we would like to examine in the current section would be to ask what reasons for not being a phenomenalist (a person who believes only in experiences and their properties) wouldn’t also lead to being a full-blown physicalist (a person who believes only in physical objects and their properties). If one wanted to consider such a question and some of the best answers to it, it would be no idle exercise to retrace the thoughts of Quine on precisely these issues.

Type-Q Materialism

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Josh Weisberg and I just finished a draft of a paper that my wife likes to call “Avenue Q Materialism” but Josh and I call “Type-Q Materialism” [link to draft].

Here’s a chunk:

As Gibson (1982) correctly points out, despite Quine’s brief flirtation with a “mitigated phenomenalism” (Gibson’s phrase) in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, Quine’s ontology of 1953 (”On Mental Entities”) and beyond left no room for non-physical sensory objects or qualities. Anyone familiar with the contemporary neo-dualist qualia-freak-fest might wonder why Quinean lessons were insufficiently transmitted to the current generation. Chalmers (1996a, 2003a) has been a prominent member of the neo-dualists, though he does not leave Quine unmentioned. Neo-dualist arguments proceed by inferring from an epistemic gap between the physical and the phenomenal to an ontological gap between the physical and the phenomenal. Chalmers sorts various materialist responses to these arguments as follows: Type-A materialism denies that there’s any epistemic gap in the first place. Type-B materialism accepts that there is an epistemic gap, but denies that the epistemic gap entails any ontological gap. Type-C materialism is like type-B materialism except it thinks the epistemic gap in question is only temporary. Type-Q materialism (Q for “Quine”), according to Chalmers (2003a), rejects the kinds of distinctions needed to formulate both the neo-dualist arguments and the type-A , type-B, and type-C materialist responses to them. Such rejected distinctions include the conceptual vs. the empirical, the a priori vs. the a posteriori, and the contingent vs. the necessary. Chalmers (2003a, 123) charges Type-Q materialism with being incapable of avoiding the problems alleged to arise for the types from earlier in the alphabet. The aim of the current paper is to argue the contrary point that Quineans are inoculated against these so-called problems. We spell out how Quinean allegiance to holism and pragmatic criteria for ontic commitment protect Type-Q materialism from the complaints of the qualia-freaks.

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