Journal of Philosophy of Life

An international peer-reviewed open access journal dedicated to the philosophy of life, death, and nature, supported by the Project of Philosophy and Contemporary Society, Advanced Research Center for Human Sciences, Waseda University


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Is Consciousness Transcendent?
: Comments on James Tartaglia’s Philosophy in a Meaningless Life: A System of Nihilism, Consciousness and Reality

Philip Goff

Journal of Philosophy of Life Vol.7, No.1 (July 2017):21-32




In this paper, I will discuss James Tartaglia’s view on consciousness, as laid out in chapters 4 and 5 of Philosophy in a Meaningless life. Chapter 4 is an excellent critique of physicalist accounts of consciousness. In chapter 5, Tartaglia develops an original and intriguing alternative: the ‘transcendent hypothesis’, the view that both consciousness and the physical world it puts us in touch with are elements of a reality whose nature is entirely unknown. I will raise small concerns about the critique of physicalism. More broadly, I worry that there is a tension between chapter 4 and chapter 5: it seems to me that if the arguments of chapter 5 succeed in demonstrating that consciousness is unknowable, then this undermines the anti-physicalist arguments of chapter 4. Finally, I will respond to Tartaglia’s rejection of more standard alternatives to physicalism.

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