Refuting Physicalism Subjectively

(The content that used to be on this page has been simplified. The original argument is linked at the end of the page.)

You may want to read these posts before continuing:

  1. Ineffability of Qualia
  2. What is Sentience?
  3. The Dualist’s Predicament


In the universe, there is a red room and a blue room. You are randomly assigned to either the red room or the blue room, and a copy* of your body is assigned to the other room. Since you can only be in one room or the other – you cannot be two people having two different experiences at the same time – there must be two possible states** in which the universe can be. Yet, according to physicalism, there are not, for the physical universe has the same state in both cases.


Footnotes (ignore if you don’t need them):

* I call it “a copy” for brevity, but strictly speaking it is “a doppelganger with a brain pre-encoded to the state that yours would have been in, had you been placed in that room.”

** Note: “both (physical universe) states”, NOT “both rooms” (or even “both people“).

(If you prefer it, try this version of the argument.)


8 Responses to “Refuting Physicalism Subjectively”

  • Anand Naranbhai says:

    Hi Isak,

    I was sent the link to your page by brother, Vivek Naranbhai.

    I have been reading some of your posts, especially on philosophy and economics/finance. Also have looked at some of the links to Gemrix etc. These are cool idea’s and inventions.

    There is a talk on at UKZN mech eng department which you may be aware of. I am going for it and thought you might be interested:

  • Mike says:

    Wouldn’t it be a simpler argument to just ask “what makes me this person rather than that person?”

  • Aaron says:

    I think the physicalist would reply that being in the red or blue room would manifest itself as a difference in the physical dynamics of the people in those rooms.

    • admin says:

      Sure, but even though the other guy’s physical state diverges from your physical state due to different surroundings, the universe‘s physical state is the same in both cases, if considered objectively. See the footnotes, or if that makes the argument unclear, see the other version of the argument linked at the end.

  • Brent Meeker says:

    Equivocation on “you”. When duplicating machines exist there is no well defined “you”.

    • admin says:

      Sure, but if you are sentient, then “me” is always well defined subjectively, and that is all the argument requires. You have to be a person in one of the rooms, looking outwards, for the argument to make sense.

      See The Dualist’s Predicament

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