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# Materialism/Physicalism

Last updated April 27, 2022

Materialism/physicalism is the view that the universe is made up of particles and behaviour (esp. consciousness) arises out of it. There is nothing special distinguishing mind from matter.

To be conscious is to have subjective human experience, to have qualia.

No one person experiences red, the smell of garlic, or the warmth of the sun in the same way.

Yet, it feels like consciousness is in intrinsic property. We don’t know if someone or something is consciousness unless we ask them. However, the inability to report a subjective experience is not the same thing as not having one. ( locked-in syndrome). For all we know, that rock could be conscious.

As an extended thought experiment, how similar do minds have to be to human ones to be considered conscious?

## # On why physicalism is a poor theory1

• “Physical” is not well-defined
• Attempts to define it make physicalism either false, empty, or non-naturalist (which is contrary to the original motivation for the thesis)
• Hempel’s Dilemma
• If we define “physical” as what contemporary physics tells us is the physical, then physicalism is likely to be false
• If we define “physical” by what the ideal, completed physics tells us is the physical, then physicalism is empty (because don’t know what that physics will be)

1. This content is sourced from Professor Evan Thompson’s course materials for PHIL451A at UBC. All rights to this content is retained by Evan Thompson. ↩︎