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At the Gates of Consciousness: Physicalism and Phenomenal Concepts

Demircioglu, Erhan (2011) At the Gates of Consciousness: Physicalism and Phenomenal Concepts. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In this work, I have three related aims. First, I attempt to show that none of the popular responses to the Knowledge Argument works. The first chapter presents the Argument as it is originally proposed by Jackson and Nagel, clarifies the distinctions between two proposals, and identifies the core of the challenge it raises for physicalism. In the following two chapters, I show that "no-new-knowledge" and "new-knowledge/old-facts" responses to the Argument fail. My second aim is to develop an adequate account of phenomenal concepts. A widely held and influential idea is that phenomenal concepts, concepts under which we grasp the qualitative properties of our experiences, are epistemically and semantically special. In the fourth chapter, I provide an account that, I believe, captures the core of this special nature. On my account, phenomenal concepts are epistemically special in that our beliefs formed by the application of phenomenal concepts to our experiences are non-inferentially justified, and they are semantically special in that they are simple concepts that represent certain phenomenal properties without using any property other than those properties. In the fourth chapter, I also draw the logical implications of my account of phenomenal concepts with respect to the conceptual/non-conceptual distinctions, the "Myth of the Given", and the infallibility of phenomenal beliefs. My third aim, which is addressed in chapter five, is to provide a novel argument for property dualism on the basis of my account of phenomenal concepts. Instead of asking "how are phenomenal experiences possible in an entirely physical world?", I raise the question "how are phenomenal concepts possible in an entirely physical world?" This question accepts the invitation of our physicalist to ascend from the level of properties to the level of concepts but inquires whether such an ascent is of any help to the physicalist. I argue that ascending to higher levels only displaces the problem: phenomenal concepts are as problematic for physicalism as are phenomenal properties. I conclude that phenomenal concepts are not possible in an entirely physical world and, since we have phenomenal concepts, our world cannot be entirely physical.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Demircioglu, Erhanerd9@pitt.eduERD9
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGupta, Anilagupta@pitt.eduAGUPTA
Committee MemberMcDowell, Johnjmcdowel@pitt.eduJMCDOWEL
Committee MemberMachamer, Peterpkmach@pitt.eduPKMACH
Committee MemberBrandom, Robertrbrandom@pitt.eduRBRANDOM
Date: 25 September 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 10 June 2011
Approval Date: 25 September 2011
Submission Date: 2 June 2011
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: acquaintance; consciousness; knowledge argument; phenomenal experience; physicalism
Other ID:, etd-06022011-140518
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:46
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:44


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