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So while it might seem surprising that the experience of tasting chocolate could be nothing but a complicated physical event in your brain, it would be no stranger than lots of things that have been discovered about the real nature of ordinary objects and processes. Scientists have discovered what light is, how plants grow, how muscles move - it is only a matter of time before they discover the biological nature of the mind. That's what physicalists think.

A dualist would reply that those other things are different. When we discover the chemical composition of water, for instance, we are dealing with something that is clearly out there in the physical world -- something we can all see and touch. When we find out that it's made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, we're just breaking down an external physical substance into smaller physical parts. It is an essential feature of this kind of analysis that we are not giving a chemical breakdown of the way water looks, feels, and tastes to us. Those things go on in our inner experience, not in the water that we have broken down into atoms. The physical or chemical analysis of water leaves them aside.

[Thomas Nagel, What does it all mean?, Chapter 4]

I've got 2 questions to ask:

  1. What does "those other things" refer to?
  2. Does "we are not giving a chemical breakdown..." have the same meaning as "we are not breaking down chemically..."? The word "giving" makes me confused.

Thank you.

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  1. "those other things" = "the real nature of ordinary objects and processes" such as "what light is, how plants grow, how muscles move" from the earlier paragraph.

  1. "giving" in that sentence holds the meaning of "convey" or "communicate"

"When we find out that it's made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, we're just breaking down an external physical substance into smaller physical parts. It is an essential feature of this kind of analysis that we are not giving a chemical breakdown of the way water looks, feels, and tastes to us."

I could summarize that as:

When we analyze the chemical breakdown of water into atoms, we are not talking about the chemical breakdown of how it looks, feels, and tastes.

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    You make it clear to me! many thanks! – XVI Jun 18 at 15:14

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