Emergence & the mind-body problem

Michael Silberstein, Elizabethtown College


In the first part of the paper I argue that neither physicalism (whether its reductive or non-reductive form) nor standard forms of dualism (as well as Chalmers' fundamentalism) can provide an explanatory framework for consciousness or cognition - neither account can existence of conscious experience nor its relationship to cognition and the brain. Physicalism and fundamentalism fail to provide an explanatory framework for consciousness because they both share, at least with respect to the physical universe, the same misguided commitment to part/whole reductionism and microreductive accounts of explanation. In addition to their lack of explanatory power, both physicalism and fundamentalism have well known absurd and troubling metaphysical consequences such as eliminativism and epiphenomenalism. In the second section of the paper I advocate a position I call radical emergence, arguing that microphysics (especially quantum mechanics) provides strong empirical evidence for emergence. I show that emergence provides a viable alternative for explaining consciousness and cognition - an alternative that has none of the awkward metaphysical consequences of either physicalism or fundamentalism.