Arguments Given by David Chalmers for Rejecting a Materialistic Account of Consciousness in His Book

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Arguments Given by David Chalmers for Rejecting a Materialistic Account of Consciousness in His Book

In this paper I will examine and criticize the arguments David Chalmers gives for rejecting a materialistic account of consciousness in his book The Conscious Mind. I will draw upon arguments and intuitions from the three main schools of thought in the philosophical study of consciousness(a) forms of dualism, (b) materialism, and (c) eliminativism. Chalmers' book deals with what are currently the most controversial issues in the study of consciousness, especially among these three schools of thought, so it provides a good guide to the important issues. This paper will concentrate on the debate between dualist and materialist theories of consciousness. I will draw on the views of Joseph Levine and discussions with Ken Taylor for materialist theories, on Chalmers' book for a dualist perspective, and I will use Dennett's writings for eliminativist considerations.

In his book, Chalmers argues that if one is to "take consciousness seriously," one should endorse a dualistic theory like his property dualism because materialism cannot explain how consciousness could amount to physical structures and processes. In the process, Chalmers argues against the eliminativist position which he claims does not "take consciousness seriously." I will begin by explaining the important concepts in the dualist-materialist-eliminativist debate such as consciousness; logical, metaphysical, and natural supervenience; and zombies. Next, I will explicate what I take to be Chalmers' main argument for property dualism. I will then explain where a materialist could object to Chalmers' argument, and how Chalmers tries to rule out such a response. Fi...

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...ary manner which does not perfectly correlate with our beliefs and desires, but which none the less allows beliefs and desires to fulfill the same causal roles in producing behavior. [BACK UP]

3. M. Davies and G. Humphreys, eds. Consciousness: Psychological and Philosophical Essays. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993. [BACK UP]

4. Although it would be the case that had the first twin's hair color been different, the second twin's hair color would also have been different. [BACK UP]


Dennett, Daniel. Consciousness Explained. Boston: Little Brown, 1991.

Chalmers, David. The Conscious Mind. New York: Oxford UP, 1996.

Levine, Joseph. "On Leaving Out What It's Like." Consciousness: Psychological and Philosophical Essays. Eds. M. Davies and G. Humphreys. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.

Kripke, Saul. Naming and Necessity. Oxford: Blackwell, 1972.
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