Property Dualism

Posted by | Zachariah | 17.10.10 | No Comments

I recently had this exchange on Academia.edu, which I thought might be of interest to this blogtheme, and as such I repost it here:

"Does "non-reductive physicalism" entail property dualism? And if it does, should it call itself "physicalism" at all, since it is committed to an ontology of (non-physical) mental properties?"

To which I responded with the following:

1. It seems that being a 'non-reductive physicalist' is a way of being a realist about experience (or 'the mental'), i.e. not being an eliminativist. So the question might be framed as: if one is a realist about experience (/the mental), then is one committed to property dualism? I.e. claiming there are, therefore, real experiential/mental properties and real 'physical' (better: non-experiential) properties.

It seems that one is in some sense committed to a distinction between the experiential and non-experiential (or else one is really an eliminativist or an absolute idealist). And indeed, this distinction seems to be more than a mere 'predicate' dualism — which is merely to say there is a *real* difference between what is experiential and what is not. However, to call this 'property dualism', in the commonly understood sense, seems to define the experiential as necessarily not part of physical reality — i.e by saying that there is a (physical) substance that has physical properties, and 'mental' (therefore not physical) properties.


2. "And if it does, should it call itself "physicalism" at all, since it is committed to an ontology of (non-physical) mental properties?"

This question seems to imply that if a theory is committed to the reality of experience (/"an ontology of (non-physical) mental properties"), then it cannot—by definition—be physicalist.

But this seems to beg the question against the (real!) physicalist. To (probably far too loosely) paraphrase Galen Strawson here, if one is a real physicalist, then one believes that every real, concrete phenomenon in the universe is physical.

To frame the question as (2) here, one seems to preclude the (real) physicalist from answering that "mental properties" (as they are so-called here) are real, but also physical. So, one might reformulate (2) as:

(2*) Should it call itself "physicalism" at all, since it is committed to an ontology of experiential properties?

To which we might reply emphatically — yes!

(Because experiential phenomena are real phenomena, and we are "non-reductive physicalists" (ex hypothesi)).

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