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Property Dualism and the Philosophy of Language
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - 6:00pm to Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - 7:30pm
Who: Socratic Society Lecture, Philosophy Department, Portland State University

When: Wednesday, Oct 15th, 2008

Time: 6:00-7:30 PM

Where: Smith Memorial Union 236

Speaker: Josh Fost, Assistant professor UNST/PSU

Title: Property Dualism and the Philosophy of Language

Abstract: Jackson (1982) attacked physicalism by arguing that a scientist possessing a complete physical account of color vision would not know, through that account alone, what it was like to see a certain color. This "knowledge argument" can be refuted by noting that it depends on how the account interacts with the receiving scientist's brain. One can imagine a brain configured such that its photoreceptors activated upon suitable neural excitation elsewhere (e.g. in those areas responsible for processing the account). A person with such a brain would see color in exactly the same way as someone exposed to light of the appropriate frequency. In this way, Jackson's claim is decomposable to an assertion not about some special property of mental experience, but about the causal force of word meanings. A second refutation of Jackson's claim is that qualia "exist" necessarily inside a mind, not in the universe at large. But intra-mind spaces are private logical universes; physical explanations should not be expected to explain qualia any more than they could explain "facts" in other private spaces, such as the universes of discourse hypostatized by works of fiction.

Josh Fost obtained a PhD in neuroscience from Princeton (1996) and currently he teaches interdisciplinary courses on cognitive science and the evolution of modern physics in University Studies at PSU. He is the author of If Not God, Then What? Neuroscience, Aesthetics, and the Origins of the Transcendent.

The next Socratic Society meeting will be held Wednesday, Nov. 12th, 2008. Topic will be announced prior to the event.