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Curse of the Qualia

Stephen L. White
Synthese
Vol. 68, No. 2, Issues in Epistemology (Aug., 1986), pp. 333-368
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20116311
Page Count: 36
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Curse of the Qualia
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Abstract

In this paper I distinguish three alternatives to the functionalist account of qualitative states such as pain. The physicalist-functionalist holds that (1) there could be subjects functionally equivalent to us whose mental states differed in their qualitative character from ours, (2) there could be subjects functionally equivalent to us whose mental states lacked qualitative character altogether and (3) there could not be subjects like us in all objective respects whose qualitative states differed from ours. The physicalist-functionalist holds (1) and (3) but denies (2). The transcendentalist holds (1) and (2) and denies (3). I argue that both versions of physicalist-functionalism inherit the problem of property dualism which originally helped to motivate functionalist theories of mind. I also argue that neither version of physicalist-functionalism can distinguish in a principled way between those neurophysiological properties of a subject which are relevant to the qualitative character of that subject's mental states and those which are not. I conclude that the only alternative to a functionalist account of qualitative states is a transcendentalist account and that this alternative is not likely to appeal to the critics of functionalism.

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