Jaegwon Kim And The Mind-Body Problem: A Critique
The mind-body problem is one of the thorny metaphysical issues in the history of philosophy. The problem is concerned with finding a relationship between our mental states and our physical states. Many major figures in philosophy have attempted to explain how the material body and the immaterial mind affect each other in terms of causation; which among them is primary and causes the other, and how the two affect each other in terms of perception and action. A contemporary philosopher who has tried to solve this problem is Jaegwon Kim, a well-known physicalist, who argues that causation only takes place in the physical domain. Accordingly, mental properties supervene and depend on physical properties hence mental events are causally impotent and only occur as shadows of physical events (Kim, 2000, 289). This study is an appraisal of Kim's philosophy of mind with the aim of demonstrating that his understanding and interpretation of mental causation does not hold. The main question in in this study is this: does reducing mental properties to physical properties by way of supervenience account for the qualitative properties of conscious perception as experienced subjectively; qualia? Understanding the mind-body relation does not only solve problems in philosophy but also in other disciplines like psychology, sociology, medicine as well as in cognitive neuroscience for better understanding of human behaviour. This study argues that, like the many before him, Kim does not satisfactorily address the mind-body problem. The 'supervenience argument' as presented by Kim is inconclusive and fails to challenge non-reductive physicalism. It does not capture qualia, the qualitative properties of conscious perception which occur in the mental domain and are irreducible to the physical domain; hence his account does not address the mind-body relation fully. An analysis of Kim's arguments for physicalism since 1980s to his contemporary stance on the mind-body relation shows evidence that he has held different incompatible views on the mind body relation over time. This should be taken as an indication of the instability in his supervenience argument. In order to salvage physicalism, this study argues that Kim should give up his supervenience argument and just maintain that mind is a constituent of the body and therefore reducible to it. This will address the problem of the relation of qualia to the material domain since all mental properties will be constituted in the physical domain.
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