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

by Jaegwon Kim
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 23, 2007 0691133859 978-0691133850

Contemporary discussions in philosophy of mind have largely been shaped by physicalism, the doctrine that all phenomena are ultimately physical. Here, Jaegwon Kim presents the most comprehensive and systematic presentation yet of his influential ideas on the mind-body problem. He seeks to determine, after half a century of debate: What kind of (or "how much") physicalism can we lay claim to? He begins by laying out mental causation and consciousness as the two principal challenges to contemporary physicalism. How can minds exercise their causal powers in a physical world? Is a physicalist account of consciousness possible?

The book's starting point is the "supervenience" argument (sometimes called the "exclusion" argument), which Kim reformulates in an extended defense. This argument shows that the contemporary physicalist faces a stark choice between reductionism (the idea that mental phenomena are physically reducible) and epiphenomenalism (the view that mental phenomena are causally impotent). Along the way, Kim presents a novel argument showing that Cartesian substance dualism offers no help with mental causation.

Mind-body reduction, therefore, is required to save mental causation. But are minds physically reducible? Kim argues that all but one type of mental phenomena are reducible, including intentional mental phenomena, such as beliefs and desires. The apparent exceptions are the intrinsic, felt qualities of conscious experiences ("qualia"). Kim argues, however, that certain relational properties of qualia, in particular their similarities and differences, are behaviorally manifest and hence in principle reducible, and that it is these relational properties of qualia that are central to their cognitive roles. The causal efficacy of qualia, therefore, is not entirely lost.

According to Kim, then, while physicalism is not the whole truth, it is the truth near enough.

Frequently Bought Together

Physicalism, or Something Near Enough (Princeton Monographs in Philosophy) + Mind in a Physical World: An Essay on the Mind-Body Problem and Mental Causation (Representation and Mind) + Philosophy of Mind
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Editorial Reviews


"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.

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: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #955,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, if Unconvincing July 11, 2006
By TiZ
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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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (Cambridge Introductions to Philosophy).
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is da bomb October 23, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Lemme tell you about this book - you're sitting there in the club, and this girl is trying to get you to dance, and you're thinking, "do I have a soul, or is my consciousness an epiphenomena of some physical process? What about causal closure? What ontological commitments am I going to have to make based on my stance on this issue?"

Let me tell you, this book is the s***, Jigwons (not even gonna try) Kim knows whats up. Ever since I read this, I've been pulling way more pussy, my game isn't thrown off by all this metaphysics bulls***.

I can proudly say I am now a physicalist, or something near enough.
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