Consciousness regained? Philosophical arguments for and against reductive physicalism

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This paper is an overview of recent discussions concerning the mind-body problem, which is being addressed at the interface between philosophy and neuroscience. It focuses on phenomenal features of consciousness or "qualia," which are distinguished from various related issues. Then follows a discussion of various influential skeptical arguments that question the possibility of reductive explanations of qualia in physicalist terms: knowledge arguments, conceivability arguments, the argument of multiple realizability, and the explanatory gap argument. None of the arguments is found to be very convincing. It does not necessarily follow that reductive physicalism is the only option, but it is defensible. However, constant conceptual and methodological reflection is required, alongside ongoing research, to keep such a view free from dogmatism and naivety. © 2012, LLS SAS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-61
JournalDialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012


  • Conceivability argument
  • Consciousness
  • Explanatory gap
  • Knowledge argument
  • Multiple realization
  • Philosophy of mind
  • Qualia
  • Reductionism
  • Relation between philosophy and neuroscience


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