Philosophical Studies

, Volume 165, Issue 2, pp 553–572 | Cite as

Circularity in the conditional analysis of phenomenal concepts



The conditional analysis of phenomenal concepts purports to give physicalists a way of understanding phenomenal concepts that will allow them to (1) accept the zombie intuition, (2) accept that conceivability is generally a good guide to possibility, and yet (3) reject the conclusion that zombies are metaphysically possible. It does this by positing that whether phenomenal concepts refer to physical or nonphysical states depends on what the actual world is like. In this paper, I offer support for the Chalmers/Alter objection that the conditional analysis fails to accommodate the true zombie intuition, and develop a new and far more powerful argument against the conditional analysis. I argue that, as stated, the conditional analysis is radically incomplete. But when fully fleshed out, the analysis becomes viciously circular. The only way to avoid this circularity is to adopt a species of analytic functionalism, on which it’s a priori that phenomenal concepts refer to the state (perhaps physical, perhaps nonphysical) that actually plays so-and-so functional role. While this rigidified analytic functionalism is coherent, it is highly unattractive, running contrary to both the intuitions that motivate functionalism and the intuitions that motivated the conditional analysis.


Conditional analysis Consciousness Phenomenal concepts Physicalism Zombies 



Thanks to Richard Yetter Chappell, John Hawthorne, Frank Jackson, Sarah-Jane Leslie, David Nowakowski and Jack Spencer for many thoughtful discussions and comments on the conditional analysis and various drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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