Berkeley's so-called 'Master Argument' and Chalmers' 'Zombie Argument' are two famous arguments that turn on the relationship between conceivability and possibility. I have been thinking for some time about an amusing (and perhaps somewhat troubling) way of putting the two together. First, let me give simplified versions of the two arguments.
These are just rough, simplified sketches off the top of my head, not serious interpretations of either Berkeley or Chalmers. Both arguments admit of more sophisticated versions. (In fact, there had better be a more sophisticated version of (MA): as it is, it seems to require that even minds themselves be in minds.) Now, consider the following bizarre merger of the two:
What should be said about (MZA)? Well, there seems to be some kind of a "conceivable by whom?" problem. Couldn't there be some other mind, M2, such that M can conceive of all and only M's possible phenomenal properties and M2 can conceive of all and only M2's possible phenomenal properties (where the two sets of possible phenomenal properties are disjoint)? Perhaps, but there are two problems with this approach. The first problem is that we ordinarily think of ourselves as being able to conceive of the phenomenal properties of other human beings (we think they are similar to our own), so (MZA) will still lead to one of two odd conclusions: either (a) we cannot conceive of the phenomenal properties of other human beings, or (b) the phenomenal properties ordinarily attributed to various (supposedly) distinct human beings actually inhere in a single substance. The second problem is that M could not possibly have good reason to believe that M2 has phenomenal properties, since those properties are not conceivable by M. As a result, M cannot have good reason to think that anything is conceivable by M2 (or any other mind), so M should suppose that whatever is inconceivable by it is inconceivable absolutely.
Good thing (MA4) is false.Posted by Kenny at July 22, 2009 12:11 PM
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