Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 42, 2008

Philosophy of Mind

Mircea Dumitru
Pages 53-60

Conceivability and Possibility
Remarks on the Mind-Body Dualism in Contemporary Philosophy of Mind

Explaining phenomenal consciousness may be the scientific and philosophical problem of our time, the last frontier of knowledge. This is not at all an easy task. For any serious attempt at finding a place for consciousness within the natural world was not successful so far. There is a conceptual tension here which makes this business of coming up with a unified (monist) explanation of mind and physical world one of the most intriguing mystery. The most predominant image of the natural world is one of a physicalist type, whereas the mind, and especially the conscious subjective experience seem not to fit well within that physicalist explanation. That explanatory failure may require a dualist metaphysical scheme (probably of a neo-Cartesian type). It may seem very well that we are caught in a dilemma, for we either embrace a physicalist explanation, but then it seems that we leave out consciousness from the big picture we are looking for, or else we face the huge task of conceiving a dramatic change of our scientific outlook about the natural world, and we don’t quite see how that would be possible or desirable. But then, should any attempt at understanding consciusness be a dead-end, something doomed to fail from a theoretical and explanatory point of view? In my paper I explore some philosophical underpinnings of contemporary dualism, focussing on the modal facets of the conceivability (neo-Cartesian) arguments. I will asses both the prospects and the moot points of this type of arguments. Of particular interest is the role that two-dimensional semantics plays in nowadays discussions of this topic.