I had encountered Dan on the web before, but without having to pause. He obviously warrants some consideration here. Now I am better focused on Donald Davidson's crucial role in the defense of physicalism. Previously I was too much in the thrall of David Chalmers' approach to the mind-body problem to fully appreciate Davidson's 'anomalous monism' ['Mental Events' (1970)], although that phrase was familiar to me from my second stint in graduate school.
Dan Hutto's essay, Davidson's Identity Crisis (c.1999), is a standardly dense philosophical piece. He criticizes Davidson's attempt to defend a non-reductive physicalism and then recommends idealism in its stead. To my present knowledge this essay defines the state of the art of current critical (non-speculative) idealism, and as such is a useful yardstick. To follow up on Dan, I recommend you go to his book forum.
Along these lines you should also consider Mark Rowland's Two Dogmas of Consciousness. This piece provides a further example of the convolutions surrounding physicalism. The tracking down of physicalism seems rather like the hunting of the Jabberwocky, or perhaps of the Snipe. At present there appears to be no outstanding defender of physicalism or materialism. Dennett and Dawkins are the best known popularizers of materialism, but neither of them figure in the current academic debates.
While following up these leads I came across Hugh Mellor and Tim Crane who jointly authored 'There is No Question of Physicalism' in 1990.
- "We examine the various definitions and defences of physicalism that have been offered in recent philosophy of mind, and argue that no nontrivial version of physicalism is true. Physicalists need to define the physical in a way that (a) excludes the mental and (b) shows why physical sciences have an ontological authority that psychology and other non-physical sciences lack. Physicalists have used the following notions in attempting thus to define and defend physicalism: reducibility to physics, causation, laws and supervenience. We show why all these attempts fail."
This article was reputed to be the definitive refutation of physicalism. I have not yet been able to locate the article nor any extended discussion of it on-line.
Then I notice a new book by David Papineau, "Thinking about Consciousness" (OUP 2002). (Note that a complete draft of this book is presently available.)
"The relation between subjective consciousness and the physical brain is widely regarded as the last mystery facing science. David Papineau argues that there is no real puzzle here. Consciousness seems mysterious, not because of any hidden essence, but only because we think about it in a special way. Papineau exposes the confusion, and dispels the mystery: we see consciousness in its place in the material world, and we are on the way to a proper understanding of the mind."
The beat goes on. The two sides pay attention to each other only when they are locked in the same room, which happens infrequently.
I continue to focus on the four books and the discussions of them that can be found on the SWIF page. This is the best single source for the current mind-body debate that I have come across so far. I hope to provide a summary here soon.
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