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Knowledge, Possibility and Consciousness (Jean Nicod Lectures) Paperback – 11 Feb 2003

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" Anyone interested in the philosophy of mind will want to read this book." -- D. Haugen, Choice

& quot; Anyone interested in the philosophy of mind will want to read this book.& quot; -- D. Haugen, Choice

"Anyone interested in the philosophy of mind will want to read this book."-- D. Haugen, "Choice"

"Anyone interested in the philosophy of mind will want to read this book." D. Haugen Choice

About the Author

John Perry is the H.W. Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good philosophy 1 April 2003
By Carlos Camara - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Its good to see more and more books on the philosophy of consciousness are coming out, but even better when some of these actually make sense. In this last group I would place books by phiilosophers like the Churchlands, Owen Flanagan, Tye, Papineau, Metzinger, Robert Kirk,Fred Dretske and sometimes at least, Searle and Dennett. Now I would add Perry, for his no-nosense philosophy is a clear example of a defence of materialism that does not hide behind the trenches and waits for dualism to retreat, but actually demolishes their arguments while moving forward on the coherence of materialism itself. And so, in this book, Perry defends antecedent physicalism and takes on the zombie, knowledge and modal arguments, while in the process laying out a theory of mental content and epistemology that can account for some problems in materialistic theories, and can show why some arguments againt it are flawed.
In antecedent physicalism, qualia exist but are purely physical, and Perry tries to account for qualia in purely physical terms, at the level of diferent types of content and knowledge. This is the root then of his attacks on the zombie, knowledge and modal arguments. He first shows that these 3 influential arguments all rest on a fallacy that Perry calls the "subject-matter assumption", the view that extra subject matter content has to be provided when the content is not fully determined by some knowledge. Perry shows that no extra subject matter is needed when the content can be fixed by reflexive content, which is a new way to access (gain knowledge of) the same subject matter content. Reflective content is sort of what idexicals do, and has certain truth conditions that are satisfied in specific situations. If I say, "Perry is a philosopher", and Perry says "Im a philosopher", the subject matter content is identical, that is, perry and that he is a philosopher, but when Perry says it, his statement has a reflexive content whose truth conditions are satisfied iff the speaker of the statement is in fact a philosopher. (this is a crude and simplistic and probably flawed interpretation of perry, but it will do).By making the distinction between contents, Perry goes on to show how the 3 arguments can be shown to not challenge physicalism.
Now it would be good to point out that Perry shows us only a way to defeat the arguments, for many ways can be found that do the same. For example, the knowledge argument (knowledge of the physical facts does not allow you to know what red looks like, so red qualia is not physical) can be put away by simply denying the premise, by saying that knowing is not the same as having, that qualia is knowing-how not knowing-that, that objectivity does not work the way the argument suposes, that knowing the physical facts of qualia and having qualia are different ways to access the same physical phenomenon, or that the knowledge gained is of a kind that does not present trouble for physicalism. Perry shows that this last argument works against all three arguments, and states the new kind of knowledge as the reflexive content as opposed the subject matter content of the knowledge in question.
So just because one knows all the physical facts, this does not mean one has all the physical contents, that is, refelxive content is missing, and such (physical) content is gained by having the qualia, and thus the argument fails. Perry similarily explains the apparent contingency of mind-brain identity, and using his knnowledge content analisis shows that the argument does not present problems for physicalism. The zombie argument (I can imagine a physically identical world without qualia, so qualia are nonphysical) is likewise flawed, but for many more resons. Perry shows that the zombie argument beggs the question in an important sense, and actually is an argument to differentiate between epiphenomenalists, fuctionalists, emergentists, dualists and physicalists, but does not show that physicalism is false. If PHysicalism is right, then it is in fact not possible, logically or otherwise, that the world be physically identical but without qualia, which are physical as well. DEpendence on what can and cannott be imagined to draw metaphysical conclusions is quastionable at best.
Of course I have left many things out. Perry is quite thurough however in his points, and one should not judge his arguments by what I wrote here, or the reading I made of them. I think that the three arguments are flawed, even for reasons independent of Perrys points, and find this just another way of showing how bad the arguments are. But I still learned a lot on differeces in content, and found Perry's epistemology very interesting, and it looks like it could solve many hard problems for materialists. Ultimately the book is valuable because Perry shows materialists do not have to fall on emergentism or functionalism, but can remain identity theorists, while still holding a coherent and, well, the most plausible views, on the miind-body problem.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, concise...wonderful. 20 Sept. 2008
By J. Strickland - Published on
Format: Paperback
In his typical style, Perry articulates some of the most important issues in philosophy of consciousness and the questions surrounding the philosophical zombie.
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