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Reference: Altmann, Daniel., (1978). Physicalism and privacy. DPhil. University of Oxford.Citable link to this page:


Physicalism and privacy

Abstract: The main objective of this thesis is to indicate an approach throughwhich ontological dualism of mind and body may be collapsed - to show that(and how) the intuitive resistance to ontological monism is confused.A minor objective, much less extensively argued for, is to indicate thatonce we can accept that there is no logical obstacle to the view that we arepurely physical, then human mentality poses no logical obstacle to the scientificaccommodation of human beings - to physicalism.It is argued that we already have, in Wittgenstein's Private LanguageArgument, a very powerful argument suggesting that ontological dualism islogically unsound. The assessment of Wittgenstein's impact on ontologicaldualism occupies the first major section of the thesis (Part 2).But it is found that the logical force of Wittgenstein's argument, thoughsuccessfully applicable against ontological dualism, does not prescribe thesort of monistic account we should adopt. For there are two alternativeswhich satisfy Wittgenstein's argument, which is essentially an argumentbanishing necessarily private mental events. One alternative involvesabandoning the view that we can be introspectively aware of mental events(essentially a behaviourist approach). The other alternative is to retainthe possibility of introspective awareness of mental events, while maintainingthat the latter are only contingently private (an approach with which themind-brain identity theory may be aligned).The first alternative is summarily rejected as being too counter-intuitive;and the remainder of the thesis explores the viability of the second alternative. But the latter alternative is also counter-intuitive: the dualistand the unconvinced materialist resist the suggestion that the mental eventsof which we may be introspectively aware could be neural events occurring inthe brain or central nervous system.In Part 5 the mind-brain identity theory is discussed. The strategyunderlying this approach, as generally conceived, is found not only to be unstable and ambivalent - straddling two rather different views - but alsoto be marked by a reluctance to engage sympathetically with the dualist'sresistance.In Part 4 an attempt is made to examine and undermine this resistance.It is found that this resistance is set in a context involving a confusedform of realism; and the confusion is traced to a familiarly mistaken notionof perception, in which mental perceptual events are taken to mediate betweena mental subject and the external world.The attempt to expose the confusions involved here, and to present amore satisfactory realism in a monistic setting, is supported by a formallinguistictreatment of the relevant aspects of perception. In this formalaccount, which requires some elementary set-theoretical notions (in particularthe notion of isomorphism), a designatory role is defined for perceptualevents taken as syntactic entities in a certain sort of formal language.Through this formal treatment it is shown that for a rich enough (purely)physical structure there would be a subjective dualism: essentially asymptom of the fact that for a physical structure to perceive a physicalevent, there would have to occur in it an unperceived (physical) event.And it is suggested that the dualist's resistance is based on a confusionin which what he takes to be a justification for ontological dualism canonly be taken as a justification for subjective dualism.As a result of these considerations a modified form of the mind-brainidentity theory is advocated, in which mental events for whose occurrencewe can have introspective evidence are construed as unperceived (but notimperceptible) physical events which (it is hypothesised in the case ofhuman beings) have neurophysiological descriptions.In Part 5 this view is considered in a more general context. Also inthis section there is an argument for a view hinted at earlier in the thesis,maintaining that the peculiarities of mental discourse pose no seriousproblem for physicalism.Finally, two problems connected with the notions of the unity and simplicity of mind are briefly mentioned, and an indication is given as tohow they may be handled by the present account.

Type of Award:DPhil Level of Award:Doctoral Awarding Institution: University of Oxford Notes:This thesis was digitised thanks to the generosity of Dr Leonard Polonsky.

Bibliographic Details

Issue Date: 1978Identifiers

Urn: uuid:fabc5407-2b11-4c01-ba8b-dbf2a82f910e

Source identifier: 602459045 Item Description

Type: Thesis;

Language: eng Subjects: Mind and body Tiny URL: td:602459045


Author: Altmann, Daniel. - institutionUniversity of Oxford facultyFaculty of Literae Humaniores - - - - Bibliographic Details Issue Date:



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