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One current debate in philosophy of mind concerns the ontological and epistemological nature of phenomenal consciousness. Two major camps dominate this debate: property dualists and physicalists. For property dualists, the existence of an epistemic gap between the physical and the phenomenal—that our knowledge of the physical does not secure our knowledge of the phenomenal—entails an ontological gap, so that the physical and the phenomenal exist as fundamentally distinct domains. For physicalists, the ontological gap does not exist because there is only one ontological type of phenomenal property. In this paper, I will criticize the property dualists’ position. I concentrate on one of the most popular property dualists’ arguments—the conceivability argument. In addition, whilst analyzing the conceivability argument, I hope to draw out an illicit change in the use of ‘epistemic situation,’ thus adding further support to the instability of the conceivability argument. Further, I argue in favour of the conceptual isolation seen between our phenomenal and physical concepts by defending the ‘Phenomenal Concept Strategy’. Conceptual isolation is responsible for our being able to conceive of ‘philosophical zombie twins’, beings that are functionally, physically, and psychologically identical to us and yet which lack phenomenal conscious experiences. The phenomenal concept strategy is designed to provide an explanation of how it is that we can conceive of such beings whilst remaining physicalists and so endorsing an ontological monism. In order for the phenomenal concept strategy to prove fruitful, the physicalist must substantiate that we share an equally good epistemic situation to our philosophical zombie twins. Our philosophical zombie twins assert claims pertaining to their phenomenal conscious experiences in the same manner that you and I do, however, ex hypothesi, we know that they do not possess phenomenal consciousness. I analyze the physicalists’ account of our philosophical zombie twins’ beliefs pertaining to their own phenomenal consciousness and argue for epistemic equality—that our philosophical zombie twins do possess a certain type of consciousness. My thesis has two major goals. First, I hope to weaken the foundation of the property dualists’ argument—the conceivability argument—and second, to force the property dualist to reevaluate the phenomenal concept strategy upon the grounds that it was developed.



Thesis Comittee

James Pearson (Thesis Director)

Catherine Womack

Matthew Dasti

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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

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