Original Paper


, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 647-663

First online:

Natural Concepts, Phenomenal Concepts, and the Conceivability Argument

  • Jussi JylkkäAffiliated withDepartment of Behavioural Sciences and Philosophy, University of Turku Email author 

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The conceivability argument against materialism, originally raised by Saul Kripke and then reformulated, among others, by David Chalmers holds that we can conceive of the distinctness of a phenomenal state and its neural realiser, or, in Chalmers’ variation of the argument, a zombie world. Here I argue that both phenomenal and natural kind terms are ambiguous between two senses, phenomenal and natural, and that the conceivability argument goes through only on one reading of a term. Thus, the antimaterialist has to provide some reasons independent of anti-materialism itself to favour that reading of a term that supports his or her argument. Given that there are no such independent reasons, I conclude that we should put more weight on empirical considerations than on a priori discussion in resolving the question concerning the identity between a phenomenal state and its neural realiser.