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Physicalism, or Something Near Enough (Princeton Monographs in Philosophy)

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691133850
ISBN-10: 0691133859
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Editorial Reviews

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"In this compact and readable book, Jaegwon Kim provides an overview of his considered position on the mind-body problem, updating and refining several familiar arguments as well as introducing newer material to round out his map of the terrain. The position 'near enough' to physicalism endorsed at the end holds that, with the exception of the intrinsic features of phenomenal states, mental properties are physically reducible via functional analysis."--D. Gene Witmer, Mind

"This is an excellent book by one of the world's best philosophers working on the metaphysics of mind. Nobody who is interested in the mind-body problem . . . should miss the opportunity to study this book carefully."--Jesper Kallestrup, Philosophical Quarterly

"Kim's Physicalism, or Something Near Enough presents philosophy at its best. The arguments contained in it are interesting and stimulating, and the discussion of opposed views is fair and highly productive. I enjoyed reading this book. It deserves to be read by anyone interested in the metaphysics of consciousness and mind."--Yaron Senderowicz, Pragmatics & Cognition

"Physicalism: Or Something Near Enough is vintage Kim, and well worth reading for anyone interested in physicalism in the philosophy of mind."--Thomas W. Smythe, Philosophical Psychology

From the Inside Flap

"This is a fine volume that clarifies, defends, and moves beyond the views that Kim presented in Mind in a Physical World. Chapter by chapter, it is philosophically interesting and engagingly written."--Karen Bennett, Princeton University --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Monographs in Philosophy
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (December 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691133859
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691133850
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #877,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Jaegwon Kim is one of the most influential of contemporary philosophers of mind, and this may be his finest work. Kim's position on the mind-body problem has evolved significantly over the last three decades, and here he has reached what he suggests is his final verdict.
"Physicalism, Or Something Near Enough" contains some material that has appeared before, but is refined here, as well as some original material. It's set forth clearly and reads mellifluously.
Kim first explains the mind-body problem, which he understands to be two related problems about whether the mental can be reduced to the physical and whether the mental is causally efficacious.
He then sets forth his supervenience/exclusion argument for the conclusion that insofar as the mental is causal efficacious it must be reducible to the physical. Kim devotes some space to defending his argument against the objections of Ned Block, among others.
The supervenience/exclusion argument is supposed to show that non-reductive physicalism, claiming that irreducibly mental properties are causally efficacious, is false. Kim considers substance dualism as an alternative. Kim argues that substance dualism, claiming that there are distinct mental and physical kinds of substances, doesn't allow for mental causation, and so is false.
After describing the nature of reduction and reductive explanation, he settles for a version of reductionism according to which mental properties that are causally efficacious are reducible to functional properties, the realizers of which science is to discover.
Kim assesses other arguments for reductive versions of physicalism as the best explanation of various phenomena, and concludes that these arguments fail.
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by one of the leading contemporary philosophers of mind.

By "classical physicalist theory" I simply mean a theory that bases its claims on classical, and not quantum, physics. Basing discussions of consciousness on classical physics, although standard in the philosophical literature, is controversial and quite possibly wrong (cf. e.g. Penrose's Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness, Stapp's Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics (The Frontiers Collection)Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer (The Frontiers Collection) for the contrary view by two well-known physicists.)

I found Kim's book to be one of the very best recent books on the philosophy of mind and quite suitable for non-philosophers interested in philosophical theories of consciousness. But this does not mean this book would be intelligible to beginners. It assumes you are quite familiar with theories of consciousness such as physicalism / materialism and dualism, and understand philosophical concepts like supervenience, mental causation and qualia. (One can readily obtain this background by reading, e.g. Kim's standard textbook Philosophy of Mind or Lowe's lucid and balanced
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Jaegwon Kim is a leading thinker in philosophy of mind, and this book is the culmination of his evolving thought in this field. Kim presents himself as a somewhat reluctant advocate for reductionist physicalism. Kim notes the dominant view of mind in analytic philosophy of the last half century has been a non-reductive physicalism, and this work is primarily a critique of that viewpoint.
The writing and tone of this work are both noteworthy. Kim’s writing is the clearest I have read in any philosophy text. While he uses some technical terms, and refers to some arcane or abstract issues in debate in philosophy of mind, the vast majority of the paragraphs in this book can be easily understood by any educated reader (with the exception of chapter 5 of 6, which dissects and rebuts a series of ideas advocated by other philosophers – it was difficult to follow for someone who has not read those works). The tone is even more unusual. Kim approaches the questions of mind not as an advocate, but as a collaborator with his colleagues, and treats their collective disputes as the collaboration needed to sift out flawed ideas. He regularly admits to shortcomings in models and how well they match the problem, which is a refreshing change from advocates of an idea who strive to paper over or blow smoke around any weaknesses of their pet theory.
The clarity of writing, honesty in recognizing weaknesses, and collaborative attitude made this book a joy to read.
The core of the book is a section which points out that a “coupling” concept tying consciousness intimately with neural processes, called supervenience, basically boils down to either consciousness not being causal, or an identity theory between consciousness and some neural function.
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Physicalism, or Something Near Enough (Princeton Monographs in Philosophy)
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