Non-reductive physicalism and degrees of freedom

Some claim that Non-reductive Physicalism (NRP) is an unstable position, on grounds that NRP either collapses into reductive physicalism (contra Non-reduction ), or expands into emergentism of a robust or ‘strong’ variety (contra Physicalism ). I argue that this claim is unfounded, by attention to the notion of a degree of freedom—roughly, an independent parameter needed to characterize an entity as being in a state functionally relevant to its law-governed properties and behavior. I start by distinguishing three relations that may hold between the degrees of freedom needed to characterize certain special science entities, and those needed to characterize (systems consisting of) their composing physical (or physically acceptable) entities; these correspond to what I call ‘reductions’, ‘restrictions’, and ‘eliminations’ in degrees of freedom. I then argue that eliminations in degrees of freedom, in particular—when strictly fewer degrees of freedom are required to characterize certain special science entities than are required to characterize (systems consisting of) their composing physical (or physically acceptable) entities—provide a basis for making sense of how certain special science entities can be both physically acceptable and ontologically irreducible to physical entities.
Keywords nonreductive physicalism  non-reductive physicalism  degrees of freedom  emergence  weak emergence
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axp040
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References found in this work BETA
Stephen Yablo (1992). Mental Causation. Philosophical Review 101 (2):245-280.
Jaegwon Kim (1989). The Myth of Non-Reductive Materialism. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 63 (3):31-47.

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Citations of this work BETA
Elanor Taylor (2015). An Explication of Emergence. Philosophical Studies 172 (3):653-669.
Agustin Vicente (2013). Where to Look for Emergent Properties. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 27 (137):156.

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Similar books and articles
A. D. Smith (1993). Non-Reductive Physicalism? In Howard M. Robinson (ed.), Objections to Physicalism. Oxford University Press
Peter Forrest (1996). Physicalism and Classical Theism. Faith and Philosophy 13 (2):179-200.
Tim Crane (2001). The Significance of Emergence. In Carl Gillett & Barry M. Loewer (eds.), Physicalism and its Discontents. Cambridge University Press

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