Guest talk by philosopher of mind Barbara Montero

“Must Physicalism Imply the Supervenience of the Mental on the Physical?”

October 18, 2012 @ 7:00pm — Trimble Forum

Barbara Gail Montero is Associate Professor of Philosophy at The City University of New York Graduate Center and College of Staten Island.  She is the author of On the Philosophy of Mind (Wadsowrth, 2009) and Mind, Body, Movement: The Relevance of Consciousness to Expert Performance (Oxford University Press, forthcoming) and the editor (with M. White) of Economics and the Mind (Routledge, 2006).

About the talk:

The standard arguments against physicalism, such as the knowledge argument and the zombie argument, purport to establish that certain mental properties do not supervene on the fundamental properties of physics, where supervenience is supposed to capture the idea, roughly speaking, that one set of properties determines, or suffices for, another set of properties. The supervenience of mental properties on fundamental physical properties is taken as a necessary condition for physicalism because the failure of such supervenience is thought to render mental properties nonphysical; and if there is something nonphysical, then physicalism, which holds that everything is physical, is false.  Although many of those engaged in the debate over the mind-body problem object to various aspects of these standard antiphysicalist arguments, most, if not all, agree that if physicalism is true, then mental properties must supervene on fundamental physical properties.  I aim to question this widely held view.  Why should the supervenience of the mental on the physical be a necessary condition for physicalism?

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