Non-eliminative Reductionism: Reconciling Qualia and Physicalism

Nicholson, Dennis (2010) Non-eliminative Reductionism: Reconciling Qualia and Physicalism. [Preprint]

Full text available as:

PDF - Draft Version


A physicalist view of qualia labelled non-eliminative reductionism is outlined. If it is true, qualia and physicalism can co-exist without difficulty. First, qualia present no particular problem for reductionist physicalism - they are entirely physical, can be studied and explained using the standard scientific approach, and present no problem any harder than any other scientists face. Second, reductionist physicalism presents no particular problem for qualia – they can be encompassed within an entirely physicalist position without any necessity, either to reduce them to non-existence, or to treat them as new fundamental properties. It is suggested that the position also has sufficient explanatory power to successfully deal with the 'why like anything – why does experience exist at all' question and to counter both Chalmers' Conceivability Argument and Jackson's Knowledge Argument.

Item Type:Preprint
Keywords:Physicalism Mind-body problem Consciousness Qualia
Subjects:Philosophy > Philosophy of Mind
ID Code:7172
Deposited By:Nicholson, Dennis
Deposited On:11 Jan 2011 03:28
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:57

References in Article

Select the SEEK icon to attempt to find the referenced article. If it does not appear to be in cogprints you will be forwarded to the paracite service. Poorly formated references will probably not work.

Aizawa, K. & Gillett, C. (2009). The (multiple) realization of psychological and other properties in the sciences. Mind and Language 24 (2):181-208.

Alter, T. (2007). The Knowledge Argument, in S. Schneider, and M. Velmans (Eds), The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. Blackwell.

Borst, C.V. (1970). The Mind–Brain Identity Theory. London: MacMillan.

Chalmers, D. J. (1995). Facing up to the problem of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2 (3), 200–219.

Chalmers, D. J. (1996). The Conscious Mind. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chalmers, D.J. (2003). Consciousness and its Place in Nature. In S. Stich and F. Warfield (Eds), Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Mind (102–42). Oxford: Blackwell.

Conee, E. (1994). Phenomenal Knowledge. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 72, 136–150.

Dennett, D. C. (1988). Quining Qualia. In Anthony J. Marcel & E. Bisiach (eds.), Consciousness in Contemporary Science. Oxford University Press.

Dennett, D. C. (1991). Consciousness Explained, Little, Brown and Co.

Deutsch, M. (1999). Subjective Physical Facts, paper given at conference on The Conscious Mind, University of Buffalo, 1999, Retrieved May 11, 2001 from

Feigl, H (1967), The 'Mental' and the 'Physical'. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, II, pp. 370-497

Flanagan, O. (1992). Consciousness Reconsidered. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Gertler, Brie (1999). A Defense of the Knowledge Argument. Philosophical Studies, 93, 317–36.

Graham, G. and Horgan, T. (2000). Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary. Philosophical Studies, 99, 59–87.

Himma, K.E. (2005). What is a Problem for All is a Problem for None: Substance Dualism, Physicalism, and the Mind–Body Problem. American Philosophical Quarterly. 42 (2), 81–92.

Hodgson, D. (2005). Goodbye To Qualia And All That? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 12(2), 84–88.

Horowitz, A. and Jacobson–Horowitz, H. (2005). The Knowledge argument And Higher–Order Properties. Ratio, XVIII, 48–64.

Jackson, F. (1982). Epiphenomenal Qualia. Philosophical Quarterly, 32, 127–36.

Jackson, F. (1986). What Mary Didn’t Know. The Journal of Philosophy, 83, 291–95.

Jackson, F. (2003). Mind and Illusion. In A. O’Hear (Ed), Minds and Persons (251–71). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kripke, S. (1980). Naming and Necessity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lewis, D. (1988). What Experience Teaches. In William G. Lycan (Ed), Mind and Cognition: A Reader (499–519). Cambridge, MIT: Blackwell.

MacDonald, C. (2004). Mary Meets Molyneux: The Explanatory Gap and the Individuation of Phenomenal Concepts. Nous, XXXVIII(3), 503–524.

McGinn, C. (1991). The Problem of Consciousness. Oxford: Blackwell.

Nagel, T. (1974). What is it Like to be a Bat? The Philosophical review, 83, 435–450. Reprinted in Nagel, T. (1979). Mortal Questions (165–180). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nemirov, L. (1980). Review of Mortal Questions by Thomas Nagel. Philosophical Review 89, 473–477.

Papineau, D. (1997). Mind the Gap. In J. Tomberlin (Ed), Philosophical Perspectives, 12, Language, Mind, and Ontology (373–388). Cambridge: Blackwell.

Smart, JJC (1959), Sensations and Brain Processes. Philosophical Review 68, pp. 141-156

Sommers, Tamler (2002). Of Zombies, Color Scientists, and Floating Iron Bars. Psyche, 8(22), November 2002, Retrieved July 12, 2007, from–8–22–sommers.html

Strawson, G. (1994). Mental Reality. Cambridge, Mass: the MIT Press, Bradford Books.

Tye, M. (1999). Phenomenal Consciousness: The Explanatory Gap as a Cognitive Illusion. Mind, 108 (432), 705–725.


Repository Staff Only: item control page