Beyond Physicalism and Dualism? Putnamís Pragmatic Pluralism and the Philosophy

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« on: November 17, 2014, 11:11:49 pm »
Beyond Physicalism and Dualism? Putnamís Pragmatic Pluralism and the Philosophy of Mind

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Abstract.

Although Hilary Putnam has played a significant role in shaping contemporary philosophy of mind, he has more recently criticised its metaphysical foundations as fundamentally flawed. According to Putnam, the standard positions in the philosophy of mind rest on dubious ontological assumptions which are challenged by his ďpragmatic pluralismĒ and the idea that we can always describe reality in different but equally fundamental ways. Putnam considers this pluralism about conceptual resources as an alternative to both physicalism and dualism. Contrary to physicalism, Putnamís pluralism rejects the ontological priority of physical concepts. Contrary to dualism, pragmatic pluralism denies that equally fundamental conceptual systems refer to ontologically distinct realms of reality.

The aim of this paper is to discuss and clarify the implications of Putnamís pragmatic pluralism for the philosophy of mind. The first section introduces Putnamís concept of conceptual relativity and his rejection of an absolute ontology. In the second section, I argue that conceptual relativity leads to a pragmatic pluralism which undermines the common ontological framework of physicalism and dualism. The third section explains how pragmatic pluralists can reject identity claims without being committed to dualism. The last section discusses the implications of Putnamís pragmatic pluralism for the mind-body problem by focussing on phenomenal consciousness and mental causation.
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