Nagel's Argument Against Psychophysical Reductionism

1672 Words7 Pages
Hunter Zappia
Prof. Jackson
PHI 370

Prompt # 1 (Thomas Nagel: What is it like to be a bat)

Word Count (not including main quote/citations): 492

In this essay I will discuss 3 important points that stem from Thomas Nagel’s paper “What is it like to be a bat.” The first thing I will do in this paper is define psychophysical reductionism and explain why Nagel is arguing against using such a straightforward psychophysical reduction. Secondly, I will explain how Nagel’s bat example ties into his argument against using psychophysical reductionism to explain psychological phenomena. And lastly, I will argue that Nagel’s two-pronged conclusion is most likely “at worst unprovable.” First we need to define what is psychophysical reductionism
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Nagel offers the example of the bat and states that one could try to imagine what it is like to be a bat by “imagining some combination of additions, subtractions, and modification”(Nagel 5). However, we can see that this imagining would only tell us what it is like for ourselves to be a bat. This is important because it shows that, although we can break down the objective properties of a bat, it doesn’t allow us to understand the bats subjective character. Lastly, the two-pronged conclusion. As of now psychophysical reductionism seems to be “at worst unprovable.” I am arguing this because reductionism is inherently flawed due to its inability to explain the most important part of the mind-body problem, consciousness. If we attempt to use it to explain the subjective character of another being we end up at the same roadblock, an inability to imagine their subjective experience. So it is at worst unprovable because the theory cannot explain consciousness we must, therefore, look for another theory that can both incorporate and explain the physical and subjective characteristics of…show more content…
I will be analyzing Jackson’s thought experiment and explaining important elements that come up in it. To do that, I will first define two important terms that Jackson uses in his paper, physicalism and the knowledge argument. I will then discuss how Jackson's thought experiment, Mary, ties into his knowledge argument and how he uses it as contradictory evidence against physicalism. Lastly, I will explain why Mary’s newfound knowledge of other people’s experiences is a critical element to Jackson’s knowledge
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