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Physicalism, or Something Near Enough (Princeton Monographs in Philosophy) Hardcover – March 27, 2005
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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
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Top Customer Reviews
"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. Finally, Kim concludes that the mental is partly reducible to the physical and partly not, cognitive/intentional properties are reducible but qualia (felt qualities) are not.
I have two objections. First, Kim's conclusion that qualia are largely not causally efficacious seems false. Secondly, Kim's argument against substance dualism is a version of the pairing problem originally formulated and rejected by John Foster, but Kim doesn't engage with Foster's response to the problem.
Kim thinks that he has solved the mind-body problem. I doubt that very many philosophers will agree that he has, and I hope that he will produce more work of this rare quality in the future.
"Physicalism, Or Something Near Enough" may become a classic in the philosophy of mind. I recommend it to upper-level undergraduate students, graduate students and philosophers working in the philosophy of mind. Those without some exposure to contemporary analytic philosophy of mind may find it very difficult.
Readers may also be interested in Andrew Melnyk's "A Physicalist Manifesto", which sets forth an explanatory argument of the type Kim rejects for physicalism, and John Foster's "The Immaterial Self", which defends substance dualism against the type of objections levelled by Kim.
In *Physicalism, or Something Near Enough* Kim continues to hammer on Donald Davidson, Jerry Fodor and Hilary Putnam for wanting to have their cake and eat it too; he reminds the philosophical public that "emergentism", a full-throated version of what Davidson called "anomalous monism", is not a new thing and points to the reader to classic statements of the view by C.D. Broad and others. However, he has a new target in this book: other "reductionist materialists" like Ned Block who want to have a solidly materialistic view of the mind and support the possibility of a psychology that reduces its operations to those of physical substrates. Kim agrees with them in spirit, but sees their arguments as regressing back to the "mind-brain identity theory" of the 1950s, which was picked apart by Saul Kripke at the start of the anti-reductionist era.
Kim carefully studies two particular nodal points of the debate, the ability of beliefs and desires to cause events and the status of "qualia", moments of subjective consciousness supposed by many to pose problems for materialism. The book's title is explained in the book's final chapter, where Kim surprisingly accepts the conclusion of David Chalmers that qualia and the subjective character of consciousness can probably never be scientifically explained. However, he holds to the idea, buttressed throughout the book by many clever arguments, that *mental causation* and the nature of the "intentional" states involved in it can only ultimately make sense in a reductionist physicalist framework: if the mind is not the nervous system, we cannot really come to grips with how it affects anything in the world.
This short book is recommended for everybody with basic training in the topic.