Entail Possibility?" In Conceivability
and Possibility, ed.
Appeals to conceivability
are common-place in contemporary discussions of modality.
When they perform their versions of the conceivability
and knowledge arguments, there appears to be no place for circles in a world that is fundamentally made of triangles.
His most perfect being, as well as my necessary beings, belong to the category of mere conceivability
of which we have only abstract and obscure ideas.
The most important argument for the claim that there is no place for phenomenal consciousness in a completely physical reality relies on considerations of conceivability
. The argument, which goes back at least to Descartes (Sixth Meditation, in Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch 1984, 2:50-63), begins with the premise that we can conceive of any physical or functional facts obtaining without there being any phenomenal experience at all.(3) This is sometimes expressed by saying that zombies (that is, beings that are our physical and functional duplicates, but that possess no phenomenal experiences) are conceivable.(4) From this assertion of conceivability
it is inferred that zombies are genuinely possible.
Anselm thus supposes that his argument, supplemented with some principles about conceivability
, establishes the existence of a being that cannot be conceived not to exist, while Gaunilo's counterargument, similarly supplemented, delivers at most a being that can be conceived not to exist.
It is further argued that the source of the fallacy in the first paralogism is a confusion about the very nature of conceivability
and that, in identifying this confusion, Kant makes a philosophical contribution of lasting value.
Matthews, "On Conceivability
in Anselm and Malcolm," The Philosophical Review 70 (1961): 110-11.
One of the main strategies against conceivability
arguments is the so-called phenomenal concept strategy, which aims to explain the epistemic gap between physical and phenomenal truths in terms of the special features of phenomenal concepts.
Moreover, given the role of the argument from conceptual analysis in Chalmers's overall case for dualism, undermining that argument effectively undermines that case as a whole in a way that, the author will argue, undermining the conceivability
arguments as stand-alone arguments does not.
Frankish shows that using the same resources as those employed by zombists, it is possible to construct an argument from the conceivability
of anti-zombies to the truth of physicalism.
Melnyk is unmoved by nonscientific, merely philosophical (for example, conceivability
) arguments against physicalism, but this attitude is itself an expression of a philosophically controversial privileging of the scientific perspective.