The Vagueness Argument Against Physicalism

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Quote:When did consciousness first evolve? If physicalism is true, we’d expect it to have evolved gradually, just as other complex biological phenomena evolved gradually. But the transition from feeling nothing to feeling something couldn’t have been gradual. No matter how minimal a conscious experience is, if it’s “like something” to exist – anything at all – it’s not like nothing at all. On reflection it seems hard to imagine anything other than a sharp border between non-experiential reality and experiential reality. On the other hand, complex physical states are not sharp: they admit borderline cases. If we remove one atom at a time from a given brain state, it will eventually be vague or indeterminate whether or not the organism is still in that physical brain state. So if consciousness is just a kind of physical state, we’d expect consciousness to follow suit. Since it seems impossible that there could be a borderline case of consciousness – it’s either like something for a creature or like nothing – we have reason to think that physicalism is false.


1000 Word Philosophy - Vagueness


Michael Tye - Vagueness and the Evolution of Consciousness

David Papineau’s review of Vagueness and the Evolution of Consciousness in NDPR

Nino Kadic - Phenomenology of Fundamental Reality

Quote:00:00 The vagueness argument
Which creatures are conscious?
The sharpness of consciousness
09:20 The vagueness of biological phenomena
The sharpness of consciousness (cont.)
Weak emergence
20:52 The advantage of vagueness arguments
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

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