The Two‐Dimensional Argument Against Materialism

David J. Chalmers

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780199262618
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

The Two‐Dimensional Argument Against Materialism


A number of popular arguments for dualism start from a premise about an epistemic gap between physical truths and truths about consciousness, and infer an ontological gap between physical processes and consciousness. Arguments of this sort include the conceivability argument, the knowledge argument, the explanatory gap argument, and the property dualism argument. Such arguments are often resisted on the grounds that epistemic premises do not entail ontological conclusions. This article views that one can legitimately infer ontological conclusions from epistemic premises, if one is careful about how one reasons. To do so, the best way is to reason first from epistemic premises to modal conclusions (about necessity and possibility), and from there to ontological conclusions. Here the crucial issue is the link between the epistemic and modal domains.

Keywords: dualism; epistemic gap; physical truths; truths about consciousness; ontological gap; physical processes; consciousness

Article.  11542 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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