Physicalism 201

Aug 24, 2017

by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Can we ever know what it’s like to be a bat? Traditional dualism, with its immaterial souls freely floating around violating physical laws, may be false; but what about the weaker thesis, that consciousness is a “further fact” not fully explainable by the physical facts? A number of philosophers and scientists have found this line of reasoning persuasive. If we feel this argument’s intuitive force, should we grant its conclusion and ditch physicalism?

We certainly shouldn’t reject it just because it sounds strange or feels vaguely unscientific. But how does the argument stand up to a technical understanding of how explanation and belief work? Are there any hints we can take from the history of science, or from our understanding of the physical mechanisms underlying evidence? This is the question that this sequence will attempt to answer.

Hand vs. Fingers

3511yShow Highlight
95

Angry Atoms

3511yShow Highlight
60

Heat vs. Motion

2411yShow Highlight
69

Brain Breakthrough! It's Made of Neurons!

4411yShow Highlight
27

When Anthropomorphism Became Stupid

1611yShow Highlight
12

A Priori

3811yShow Highlight
101

Reductive Reference

2211yShow Highlight
39

Zombies! Zombies?

5311yShow Highlight
148

Zombie Responses

1711yShow Highlight
40

The Generalized Anti-Zombie Principle

2211yShow Highlight
64

GAZP vs. GLUT

3711yShow Highlight
170

Belief in the Implied Invisible

3211yShow Highlight
33

Zombies: The Movie

7511yShow Highlight
76

Excluding the Supernatural

4010yShow Highlight
140

Psychic Powers

1510yShow Highlight
93