Samuel Alexander's emergentism

Synthese 153 (2):261-296 (2006)
Abstract
Samuel Alexander was one of the foremost philosophical figures of his day and has been argued by John Passmore to be one of ‘fathers’ of Australian philosophy as well as a novel kind of physicalist. Yet Alexander is now relatively neglected, his role in the genesis of Australian philosophy if far from widely accepted and the standard interpretation takes him to be an anti-physicalist. In this paper, I carefully examine these issues and show that Alexander has been badly, although understandably, misjudged by most of his contemporary critics and interpreters. Most importantly, I show that Alexander offers an ingenious, and highly original, version of physicalism at the heart of which is a strikingly different view of the nature of the microphysical properties and associated view of emergent properties. My final conclusion will be that Passmore is correct in his claims both that Alexander is significant as one of the grandfather’s of Australian philosophy and that he provides a novel physicalist position. I will also suggest that Alexander’s emergentism is important for addressing the so-called ‘problem of mental causation’ presently dogging contemporary non-reductive physicalists
Keywords REALIZATION
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