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Property Dualism Physical Substances

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1. Explain Frank Jackson argument for property dualism?
2. Explain Daniel Dennett argument for thinking qualia don't exist?


1.Property Dualism

Property dualism asserts that there is one kind of substance, but property exists in two forms, physical and mental. Property dualism is of the view that physical substances are possessed by mental properties but as physicalism claims, mental properties do not depend on physical properties[1]. Most discussed forms of property dualism defend the position for its consciousness properties. Property dualism asserts that properties can be reduced to behavioral, physical and functional properties. Such properties includes smelling, feelings and experiences. These properties are irreducible and new.

Property dualism rejects physics and argues that it not what forms the fundamental characteristics of nature because consciousness exists. Therefore, property dualism rejects physics. Physical properties of consciousness have to be fixed for one to say the physical properties of the world have been finalized. Clearly, from this point of view, physics misses something fundamental. Property dualist allow the correlations between mental consciousness and the law of nature. Particularly, the dualists assert that mental properties and new and distinct to the world.

Frank Jackson defends property dualism using knowledge argument. He uses the scenario of Mary (a neuroscientist) who is assumed to live in a room where everything is black and white. All she knows is black, white and some shades of grey. Her area of specialization is vision, and she even uses a black and white T.V. Jackson argues that when Mary steps out of the black and white room and sees a ripe tomato, she sees something new. She learns how the color red, looks like. Therefore, through her visual experience she learns something new. When she was in the room, we though she knew everything regarding physical facts. Therefore, as evidence suggests, not all facts are physical facts. One may not know about the qualia despite knowing all the physical properties of the brain.  Consequently, because Mary learns something knew, there are truths about the physical world and people which escape the physicalist[2]. Therefore, Jackson concludes that physicalism and phenomenal properties which are not physical properties are false.

The hard and the easy problems are distinguished by Chalmers. The hard problem is in relation to the experiences of the consciousness, and the properties of consciousness which are phenomenal. It also involves explaining why certain properties of consciousness are associated with such problems. The easy problem involves and analysis of what the functions of consciousness are; such as reporting the state of our minds and how sometimes we control our behavior[3]. Physicalists say that the mental state has a role in the functionality of people. Chalmers argues that consciousness experiences, bring a particular role in functionality. If an account of something’s physical of state is given, then the function and the physical structure is explained; thus the functionality and what constitutes a thing is accounted for. These properties, according to Chalmers, are not sufficient to explain the phenomenal consciousness; because they do not account for experiences and feelings[4]. Thus, function and structure do not adequately account for phenomenal consciousness.

Objections to Jackson’s theory include the fact that different people may have different knowledge on the same thing, and discovery will not necessarily cancel out the concept of the other person.


2.Dennett’s Argument for thinking qualia don’t exist

Dennett denies about qualia being a unique property of consciousness. However, he does not deny fully on the conscious experience. Dennett does not deny that conscious has properties and he does not want to say that qualia itself do not have the exceptional characteristics that many philosophers have attributed to it. The qualities that these scholars have attributed to qualia are; it is private, ineffable, intrinsic, as well as being directly apprehensible via consciousness. Dennett believes that most philosophers are instinctively misled in these assumptions. Qualia is also commonly defined as indescribable insofar since we tend to think of our experience as challenging expression or description of the language[5]. Since qualia are incredible, it is then described as private. Since we are unable to express our experiences entirely, there arises a problem since it is impossible to make an interpersonal comparison. Each and every one of us can access our qualia through a first person’s perspective which no one else can understand qualia like we do. Qualia is thought to be much directly apprehensible via consciousness in that we seem to possess the powers to reflect on our experiences in which amplifies our qualia. These qualia are thought to be inherent insofar since they are atomic, homogeneous and straightforward. Therefore, this feature makes qualia hard to access without the direct experience. Dennett shows that it is not clear that the consciousness has the characteristic mentioned above are associated with qualia

Dennett believes that various mysteries involving the consciousness are usually developed by the dogmatically that accepts the above-discussed characteristics that we hold about qualia and also the ways in which most things seem to us. Therefore, he tries to shift the whole burden of these proofs to the individuals who appeal to the private and subjective experiences as having those distinctive traits. Dennett denies the presence of qualia as it is usually seen as the primary defense and the last one again functionalism and materialism. Since Dennett is a naturalist philosopher, he explains the conscious purely regarding physical, and the talk of qualia leads to the unnecessary confusions. He shows that the four characteristics attributed to qualia are merely confusions since no such entities of consciousness have all the properties[6]. Dennett employs the Sanborn-Chase institution pump to show how little first-person comprehension we have of qualia. The Sanborn-Chase illustration indicates that the assumption of the privileged access is a falsehood.  These men analyze their experiences objectively instead of introspectively hence there are no qualia.

Through the application of another institution pump, Dennett shows that the various assumptions that qualia are inherent are entirely unfounded. He argues that only the prolonged consumption of beer develops the enjoyable experience and not the chance in flavor hence qualia is not intrinsic but relational. Therefore there are no qualia. Dennett uses another illustration to show that there are intrapersonal variations in the color experience which are gradual and imperceptible for many persons. He claims that the ultimate evidential power of neurophysiology is limited in the examination of the subjective experience as qualia have some special and intrinsic nature which can be secluded from our behavioral dispositions. Dennett can make philosophical progress in showing that qualia do not pose any significant threat for the materialistic promoters of consciousness[7]. He uses phenomena that are mysterious and also beyond the physical explanation. He can show that this formation is just an illusion that is based on misunderstanding since there are no qualia that have those unique properties. However, Dennett has not fully succeeded in showing that the computational functionalism is valid.  Therefore, the biological functionalists state that the conscious experience, which is the experience of qualia depends on our biological structures[8].



Alter, Torin Andrew, and Sven Walter. 2007. Phenomenal concepts and phenomenal knowledge: new essays on consciousness and physicalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Aranyosi, Istva?n. 2013. The peripheral mind: philosophy of mind and the peripheral nervous system.

Awret, Uziel. 2016. The Singularity: Could artificial intelligence really out-think us (and would we want it to)?

Baßler, David H. "Qualia explained away." In Open MIND. Open MIND. Frankfurt am Main: MIND Group, 2014.

Dennett, Daniel C. "Quining qualia." In Consciousness in modern science. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Humphrey, Nicholas. "Redder than Red Illusionism or Phenomenal Surrealism?." Journal of Consciousness Studies 23, no. 11-12 (2016): 116-123.

Prinz, Jesse. "Against Illusionism." Journal of Consciousness Studies 23, no. 11-12 (2016): 186-196.

Zimmerman, Dean W. 2006. Oxford studies in metaphysics. Vol. 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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