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Physicalism is the metaphysical thesis that everything is, in some important sense, physical. But in what sense is everything physical? Must everything reduce to physics? Must all terms be translatable into physical terms? What does it take for something to count as ''physical''? This category contains works that relate to the question ''What is physicalism?’’. These works utilize a wide variety of tools and approaches in their attempts to spell out what physicalism is.

Key works "Hempel's dilemma'' (Hempel 1969, Crane & Mellor 1990) claims that no non-trivial formulation of physicalism can be given. In this vein, Stoljar 2010 argues that there is no thesis that is both potentially true and deserving of the name 'physicalism'.  Discussions of Hempel's dilemma can also be found in Dowell, J. L. 2006, Melnyk 1997, and Wilson 2006. All the above works, in addition to Stoljar 2001a, 2001b, Chalmers 2003 (section 7), and Wilson 2006 discuss what it takes for something to count as ''physical''. Classic statements of an early form of materialism, the mind-brain identity theory, can be found in Place 1956, Feigl 1958 and Smart 1959. Chalmers 1996, Jackson 1994, Kim 1993, and Lewis 1983 use the tools of metaphysical modality and supervenience to formulate physicalism. Wilson 2005 provides reasons to be skeptical of such accounts. Melnyk 2003, 2006 formulates physicalism using the notion of realization, while Leuenberger 2008 uses ceteris absentibus sufficiency. Chalmers 2003 provides a useful taxonomy of physicalist positions, organized with respect to how they respond to the hard problem of consciousness. Kim 2000 covers a variety of topics relevant to both formulating and evaluating physicalism, including supervenience, reductive vs non-reductive physicalism, and the causal closure of the physical.
Introductions Stoljar 2001, Stoljar 2010, and Dowell, J. L. 2006 are good starting places for the difficulties surrounding formulating physicalism. Smart 2007 offers an overview of the development of the mind-brain identity theory. Crane & Mellor 1990 contains a pressing formulation of Hempel's dilemma. Stoljar 2010 covers a wide variety of attempts to characterize ''the physical''.
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  1. Virgil Aldrich (1977). Description and Expression: Physicalism Restricted. Inquiry 20 (1-4):149 – 164.
    'Material thing' is a two-level concept. In 'first-order extension' - the field of perceptual experience - it is a 'body' that may 'body forth' (show, express) a 'content', like the bodies of persons or pictures. In 'second-order extension' -the physical field or space - it is a 'physical object' whose micro-constitution is the target of the reference of theoretical terms or formulae. As such, it has no content - nothing to 'express'. In the description of a material thing in first-order (...)
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  2. Joseph A. Baltimore (2013). Careful, Physicalists: Mind–Body Supervenience Can Be Too Superduper. Theoria 79 (1):8-21.
    It has become evident that mind–body supervenience, as merely specifying a covariance between mental and physical properties, is consistent with clearly non-physicalist views of the mental, such as emergentism. Consequently, there is a push in the physicalist camp for an ontologically more robust supervenience, a “superdupervenience,” that ensures that properties supervening on physical properties are physicalistically acceptable. Jessica Wilson claims that supervenience is made superduper by Condition on Causal Powers (CCP): each individual causal power associated with a supervenient property is (...)
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  3. Joseph A. Baltimore (2013). Stoljar's Twin-Physics World. Philosophia 41 (1):127-136.
    In his recent book Physicalism, Daniel Stoljar argues that there is no version of physicalism that is both true and deserving of the name. His argument employs a variation of Hilary Putnam’s famous twin-earth story, which Stoljar calls “the twin-physics world.” In this paper, I challenge Stoljar’s use of the twin-physics world. The upshot of that challenge, I argue, is that Stoljar fails to show, concerning the versions of physicalism for which he grants the possibility of being true, that none (...)
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  4. Joseph A. Baltimore (2013). Type Physicalism and Causal Exclusion. Journal of Philosophical Research 38:405-418.
    While concerns of the mental being causally excluded by the physical have persistently plagued non-reductive physicalism, such concerns are standardly taken to pose no problem for reductive type physicalism. Type physicalists have the obvious advantage of being able to countenance the reduction of mental properties to their physical base properties by way of type identity, thereby avoiding any causal competition between instances of mental properties and their physical bases. Here, I challenge this widely accepted advantage of type physicalism over non-reductive (...)
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  5. Ned Block (forthcoming). The Canberra Plan Neglects Ground. In Terence Horgan, Marcelo Sabates & David Sosa (eds.), Qualia and Mental Causation in a Physical World: Themes from the Philosophy of Jaegwon Kim,. Cambridge University Press.
    This paper argues that the “Canberra Plan” picture of physicalistic reduction of mind--a picture shared by both its proponents and opponents, philosophers as diverse as David Armstrong, David Chalmers Frank Jackson, Jaegwon Kim, Joe Levine and David Lewis--neglects ground (Fine, 2001, 2012). To the extent that the point of view endorsed by the Canberra Plan has an account of the physical/functional ground of mind at all, it is in one version trivial and in another version implausible. In its most general (...)
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  6. P. Bokulich (2011). Hempel's Dilemma and Domains of Physics. Analysis 71 (4):646-651.
    Hempel's Dilemma is the claim that physicalism is an ill-formed thesis because it can offer no account of the physics that it refers to: current physics will be discarded in the future, and we don't yet know the nature of future physics. This article confronts the first horn of the dilemma, and argues that our knowledge of current physics is sufficient for offering a physicalist ontology of the mind. We have good scientific evidence that future physics will be irrelevant to (...)
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  7. A. Botterell (2005). A Physicalist Manifesto: Thoroughly Modern Materialism. Philosophical Review 114 (1):125-128.
    A review of Andrew Melnyk's _A Physicalist Manifesto_ (Cambridge: CUP, 2003).
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  8. H. G. Callaway & Paul Gochet (2007). Quine's Physicalism. In Filosofia, Scienza e Bioetica nel dibattito contemperano, Studi internazionali in onore di Evandro Agazzi, pp. 1105-1115.
    In this paper we briefly examine and evaluate Quine’s physicalism. On the supposition, in accordance with Quine’s views, that there can be no change of any sort without a physical change, we argue that this point leaves plenty of room to understand and accept a limited autonomy of the special sciences and of other domains of disciplinary and common-sense inquiry and discourse. The argument depends on distinguishing specific, detailed programs of reduction from the general Quinean strategy of reduction by explication. (...)
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  9. Chapman Cohen (1943). Materialism Restated. London, Issued for the Secular Society, Limited, by the Pioneer Press.
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  10. Tim Crane (2000). Dualism, Monism, Physicalism. Mind and Society 1 (2):73-85.
    Dualism can be contrasted with monism, and also with physicalism. It is argued here that what is essential to physicalism is not just its denial of dualism, but the epistemological and ontological authority it gives to physical science. A physicalist view of the mind must be reductive in one or both of the following senses: it must identify mental phenomena with physical phenomena (ontological reduction) or it must give an explanation of mental phenomena in physical terms (explanatory or (...)
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  11. Tim Crane (1993). Reply to Pettit. Analysis 53 (4):224-27.
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  12. Tim Crane (1991). All God has to Do. Analysis 51 (October):235-44.
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  13. Tim Crane & D. H. Mellor (1990). There is No Question of Physicalism. Mind 99 (394):185-206.
    Many philosophers are impressed by the progress achieved by physical sciences. This has had an especially deep effect on their ontological views: it has made many of them physicalists. Physicalists believe that everything is physical: more precisely, that all entities, properties, relations, and facts are those which are studied by physics or other physical sciences. They may not all agree with the spirit of Rutherford's quoted remark that 'there is physics; and there is stamp-collecting',' but they all grant physical science (...)
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  14. S. Crook (2001). Why Physics Alone Cannot Define the 'Physical': Materialism, Metaphysics, and the Formulation of Physicalism. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (3):333-360.
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  15. Chris Daly (1998). What Are Physical Properties? Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 79 (3):196-217.
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  16. Chris Daly (1995). Does Physicalism Need Fixing? Analysis 55 (3):135-41.
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  17. Kim Davies (2014). Emergence From What? A Transcendental Understanding of the Place of Consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 21 (5-6):10-32.
    This paper argues that the standard formulations of the question of how consciousness emerges, both synchronically and diachronically, from the physical world necessarily use a concept of the physical without either a clear grasp of the concept or an understanding of the necessary conditions of its possibility. This concept will be elucidated and some of the necessary conditions of its possibility explored, clarifying the place of the mental and the physical as abstractions from the totality of an agent engaged in (...)
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  18. Louis deRosset (2013). Grounding Explanations. Philosophers' Imprint 13 (7).
    A compelling idea holds that reality has a layered structure. We often disagree about what inhabits the bottom layer (or even if there is one), but we agree that higher up we find chemical, biological, geological, psychological, sociological, economic, /etc./, entities: molecules, human beings, diamonds, mental states, cities, interest rates, and so on. How is this intuitive talk of a layered structure of entities to be understood? Traditionally, philosophers have proposed to understand layered structure in terms of either reduction or (...)
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  19. John Dewey, Sidney Hook & Ernest Nagel (1945). Are Naturalists Materialists? Journal of Philosophy 42 (September):515-530.
    Professor [H.W.] Sheldon's critique of contemporary naturalism as professed in the volume Naturalism and the Human Spirit consists of one central "accusation": naturalism is materialism pure and simple. This charge is supported by his further claim that since the scientific method naturalists espouse for acquiring reliable knowledge of nature is incapable of yielding knowledge of the mental or spiritual "nature" for the naturalist is definitionally limited to "physical nature." He therefore concludes that instead of being a philosophy which can settle (...)
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  20. Esa Diaz-Leon (2008). We Are Living in a Material World (and I Am a Material Girl). Teorema 27 (3):85-101.
    In this paper I examine the question of whether the characterization of physicalism that is presupposed by some influential anti-physicalist arguments, namely, the so-called conceivability arguments, is a good characterization of physicalism or not. I compare this characterization with some alternative ones, showing how it can overcome some problems, and I defend it from several objections. I conclude that any arguments against physicalism characterised in that way are genuine arguments against physicalism, as intuitively conceived.
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  21. Jonathan E. Dorsey (2011). On the Supposed Limits of Physicalist Theories of Mind. Philosophical Studies 155 (2):207-225.
    Is physicalism compatible with either panpsychism or so-called fundamental mentality ? Minimal physicalism, I contend, is compatible with both. We should therefore jettison the No Fundamental Mentality constraint, a proposed constraint on the definition of the physical , not to mention the false limits it places on physicalist theories of mind.
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  22. Janice Dowell, J. L. (2006). Formulating the Thesis of Physicalism. Philosophical Studies 131 (1):1-23.
    Perhaps more controversial than whether physicalism is true is what exactly would have to be true for physicalism to be true. Everyone agrees that, intuitively at least, physicalism is the thesis that there is nothing over and above the physical. The disagreements arise in how to get beyond this intuitive formulation. Until about ten years ago, participants in this debate were concerned primarily with answering two questions. First, what is it for a property, kind, relation, or individual to be a (...)
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  23. Janice Dowell, J. L. (2006). The Physical: Empirical, Not Metaphysical. Philosophical Studies 131 (1):25-60.
    2. The Contingency and A posteriority Constraint: A formulation of the thesis must make physicalism come out contingent and a posteriori. First, physicalism is a contingent truth, if it is a truth. This means that physicalism could have been false, i.e. there are counterfactual worlds in which physicalism is false, for example, counterfactual worlds in which there are <span class='Hi'>miracle</span>-performing angels.[9] Moreover, if physicalism is true, our knowledge of its truth is a posteriori. This is to say that there are (...)
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  24. Janice Dowell (2006). Formulating the Thesis of Physicalism: An Introduction. Philosophical Studies 131 (1):1-23.
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  25. John Earman (1975). What is Physicalism? Journal of Philosophy 72 (October):565-567.
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  26. Robert Francescotti (2013). The Problem of Extras and the Contingency of Physicalism. Philosophical Explorations 17 (2):1-14.
    Perhaps all concrete phenomena obtain solely in virtue of physical phenomena. Even so, it seems that the world could have been otherwise. It seems that physicalism, if true, is contingently true. In fact, many believe that the actual truth of physicalism allows metaphysically possible worlds duplicating the actual world in all physical respects while containing immaterial extras, e.g. ghosts, spirits, or Cartesian souls, that no physicalist would believe actually exist. Here I focus on physicalism regarding mentality and argue that the (...)
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  27. Robert Francescotti (2000). Ontological Physicalism and Property Pluralism: Why They Are Incompatible. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 81 (4):349-362.
    To earn the title “ontological physicalist,” one must endorse an entailment thesis of the following sort: the physical properties that are had, together with the causal laws, determine which higher-level properties are had. I argue that if this thesis is to capture all that is essential to physicalist intuitions, the relevant set of causal laws must be restricted to purely physical laws. But then it follows that higher-level properties are physical properties. The conclusion is that one cannot consistently be an (...)
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  28. Carl Gillett (2001). The Methodological Role of Physicalism: A Minimal Skepticism. In Carl Gillett & Barry M. Loewer (eds.), Physicalism and its Discontents. Cambridge University Press.
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  29. Carl Gillett & D. Gene Witmer (2001). A "Physical" Need: Physicalism and the Via Negativa. Analysis 61 (272):302–309.
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  30. Benedikt Paul Göcke (2009). What is Physicalism? Ratio 22 (3):291-307.
    Although 'most contemporary analytic philosophers [endorse] a physicalist picture of the world' (A. Newen; V. Hoffmann; M. Esfeld, 'Preface to Mental Causation, Externalism and Self-Knowledge', Erkenntnis , 67 (2007), p. 147), it is unclear what exactly the physicalist thesis states. The response that physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical does not solve the problem but is a precise statement of the problem because 'the claim is hopelessly vague' (G. Hellman; F. Thompson, 'Physicalism: Ontology, Determination, and Reduction', Journal of (...)
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  31. Peter Godfrey-Smith (1999). Procrustes Probably: Comments on Sober's "Physicalism From a Probabilistic Point of View". Philosophical Studies 95 (1-2):175-181.
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  32. Matthew C. Haug (2011). On the Distinction Between Reductive and Nonreductive Physicalism. Metaphilosophy 42 (4):451-469.
    Abtract: This article argues that the debate between reductive and nonreductive physicalists is best characterized as a disagreement about which properties are natural. Among other things, natural properties are those that characterize the world completely. All physicalists accept the “completeness of physics,” but this claim contains a subtle ambiguity, which results in two conceptions of natural properties. Reductive physicalists should assert, while nonreductive physicalists should deny, that a single set of low-level physical properties is natural in both of these senses. (...)
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  33. John Hawthorne (2002). Blocking Definitions of Materialism. Philosophical Studies 110 (2):103-13.
    It is often thought that materialism about themind can be clarified using the concept of supervenience. But there is a difficulty. Amaterialist should admit the possibility ofghosts and thus should allow that a world mightduplicate the physical character of our worldand enjoy, in addition, immaterial beings withmental properties. So materialists can't claimthat every world that is physicallyindistinguishable from our world is alsomentally indistinguishable; and this is wellknown. What is less understood are thedifferent ways that immaterial add-ons can maketrouble for supervenience-theoreticformulations (...)
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  34. John Heil (ed.) (1989). Cause, Mind, and Reality: Essays Honoring C. B. Martin. Norwell: Kluwer.
  35. Terence E. Horgan (2006). Materialism: Matters of Definition, Defense, and Deconstruction. Philosophical Studies 131 (1):157-83.
    How should the metaphysical hypothesis of materialism be formulated? What strategies look promising for defending this hypothesis? How good are the prospects for its successful defense, especially in light of the infamous “hard problem” of phenomenal consciousness? I will say something about each of these questions.
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  36. D. House Vaden & Marvin J. McDonald (1992). Post-Physicalism and Beyond. Dialogue 31 (4):593-621.
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  37. Andreas Hüttemann & David Papineau (2005). Physicalism Decomposed. Analysis 65 (285):33-39.
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  38. Frank Jackson (2006). On Ensuring That Physicalism is Not a Dual Attribute Theory in Sheep's Clothing. Philsophical Studies 131 (1):227-249.
    Physicalists are committed to the determination without remainder of the psychological by the physical, but are they committed to this determination being a priori? This paper distinguishes this question understood de dicto from this question understood de re, argues that understood de re the answer is yes in a way that leaves open the answer to the question understood de dicto.
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  39. Neal Judisch (2008). Why 'Non-Mental' Won't Work: On Hempel's Dilemma and the Characterization of the 'Physical'. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 140 (3):299 - 318.
    Recent discussions of physicalism have focused on the question how the physical ought to be characterized. Many have argued that any characterization of the physical should include the stipulation that the physical is non-mental, and others have claimed that a systematic substitution of ‘non-mental’ for ‘physical’ is all that is needed for philosophical purposes. I argue here that both claims are incorrect: substituting ‘non-mental’ for ‘physical’ in the causal argument for physicalism does not deliver the physicalist conclusion, and the specification (...)
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  40. Robert Kirk (2006). Physicalism and Strict Implication. Synthese 151 (3):523-536.
    Suppose P is the conjunction of all truths statable in the austere vocabulary of an ideal physics. Then phsicalists are likely to accept that any truths not included in P are different ways of talking about the reality specified by P. This ‘redescription thesis’ can be made clearer by means of the ‘strict implication thesis’, according to which inconsistency or incoherence are involved in denying the implication from P to interesting truths not included in it, such as truths about phenomenal (...)
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  41. Robert Kirk (1996). Physicalism Lives. Ratio 9 (1):85-89.
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  42. Robert Kirk (1982). Physicalism, Identity, and Strict Implication. Ratio 24 (December):131-41.
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  43. Robert Kirk (1979). From Physical Explicability to Full-Blooded Materialism. Philosophical Quarterly 29 (July):229-37.
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  44. Tadeusz Kotarbiński (1955). The Fundamental Ideas of Pansomatism. Mind 64 (256):488-500.
  45. Noa Latham (2003). What is Token Physicalism? Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 84 (3):270-290.
    The distinction between token and type physicalism is a familiar feature of discussion of psychophysical relations. Token physicalism, or ontological physicalism, is the view that every token, or particular, in the spatiotemporal world is a physical particular. It is contrasted with type physicalism, or property physicalism -- the view that every first-order type, or property, instantiated in the spatiotemporal world is a physical property. Token physicalism is commonly viewed as a clear thesis, strictly weaker than property physicalism, strictly stronger than (...)
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  46. Noa Latham (2001). Substance Physicalism. In Carl Gillett & Barry M. Loewer (eds.), Physicalism and its Discontents. Cambridge University Press.
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  47. Stephan Leuenberger (2008). Ceteris Absentibus Physicalism. In D. W. Zimmerman (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics. Oxford University Press. 4--145.
  48. Joseph Levine & Kelly Trogdon (2009). The Modal Status of Materialism. Philosophical Studies 145 (3):351 - 362.
    Materialism, as traditionally conceived, has a contingent side and a necessary side. The necessity of materialism is reflected by the metaphysics of realization, while its contingency is a matter of accepting the possibility of Cartesian worlds, worlds in which our minds are roughly as Descartes describes them. In this paper we argue that the necessity and the contingency of materialism are in conflict. In particular, we claim that if mental properties are realized by physical properties in the actual world, Cartesian (...)
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  49. Luca Malatesti (2008). Mary's Scientific Knowledge. Prolegomena 7 (1):37-59.
    Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument (KA) aims to prove, by means of a thought experiment concerning the hypothetical scientist Mary, that conscious experiences have non-physical properties, called qualia. Mary has complete scientific knowledge of colours and colour vision without having had any colour experience. The central intuition in the KA is that, by seeing colours, Mary will learn what it is like to have colour experiences. Therefore, her scientific knowledge is incomplete, and conscious experiences have qualia. In this paper I consider (...)
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  50. Andrew Melnyk (2008). Can Physicalism Be Non-Reductive? Philosophy Compass 3 (6):1281-1296.
    Can physicalism (or materialism) be non-reductive? I provide an opinionated survey of the debate on this question. I suggest that attempts to formulate non-reductive physicalism by appeal to claims of event identity, supervenience, or realization have produced doctrines that fail either to be physicalist or to be non-reductive. Then I treat in more detail a recent attempt to formulate non-reductive physicalism by Derk Pereboom, but argue that it fares no better.
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