Problems with Jaegwon Kim’s Version of Physicalism
by J.P. Moreland
- Title: If You Can't Reduce, You Must Eliminate: Why Kim's Version of Physicalism Isn't Close Enough
- Date: 2005
- Source: Philosophia Christi 7:2 (Winter 2005), 463-473.
- Article Type: Journal Article
- Audience: Advanced
- Kingdom Categories: Life of the Mind
Jaegwon Kim's book reads like a battle-tested, veteran general, providing a summary to the combatants of sixty years of warfare, along with an assessment of the current battlefield and a declaration of the only way forward. His central thesis - pronouncement might be better - is this: Given that physicalism is the only credible worldview we have, the only way to preserve mental causation is to reduce functionally the mental to the physical. Substance dualism cannot account for mental causation, Nagelian reduction is dead, and type physicalism is just false when it comes to qualia. Cognitive mental states can be functionally reduced, so cognition and agency can be saved, but the intrinsic features of qualia cannot. We can functionally reduce the relational aspects of qualia used to sort and discriminate among kinds of qualia, but their intrinsic features are irreducible. Since qualia are real yet epiphenomenal, we are struck with them, and that means the physicalism tout court fails. But the failure is one we can live with and we end up with a form of physicalism that is close enough, or so Kim tries to convince us.
I have interacted with Kim's influential work in a variety of my books and journal articles that discuss issues of philosophy of mind and philosophical anthropology. As I have tried to do in my own writings that criticize physicalism, it is important to locate their claims within the broader worldview implications of naturalism.
Related Content: If this article interests you, you might also want to consider the following:
- Consciousness and the Existence of God (book)
- The Recalcitrant Imago Dei (book)
- Naturalism (book)
- Body & Soul (book)
- Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview (book)
- Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (book)
- Christian Perspectives on Being Human (book)
- It offers a succinct, philosophical critique of Jaegwon Kim's Physicalism, or Something Near Enough
- It offers insight into the worldview implications for naturalism if Kim's physicalism is adopted.
- It is a helpful example of how to critique physicalistic assumptions.