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Emergentism, a Partial Solution to the Mind-Body Problem

Chris Wright
University of Illinois at Chicago


The mind-body problem—which Jaegwon Kim characterizes as the problem of “finding a place for the mind in a world that is fundamentally physical”[1]—has been puzzled over for centuries, and is unlikely to be resolved any time soon. Every possible solution seems to have inadequacies. Anyone familiar with philosophical literature is aware of all the problems with Cartesian substance dualism, reductive physicalism, eliminative materialism, behaviorism and functionalism, non-reductive physicalism and emergentism. One is tempted to agree with Colin McGinn that the cognitive apparatus of humans is intrinsically inadequate to the problem of explaining the relation between the mind (or more specifically consciousness) and the brain.[2] How something like consciousness can emerge from something like the brain seems totally inexplicable. (more…)