Physicalism, Emergentism, and Fundamental Forces

Dissertation, Cornell University (2001)
Physicalism is the thesis that all entities are nothing over and above physical entities. Here I investigate into whether and how physicalism might be formulated so as to substantively contrast with its best traditional rivals---including and especially emergentism. Formulating physicalism requires making sense of both the physical/non-physical distinction and the nothing/something over and above distinction. It has been argued that no distinction between the physical and the non-physical exists, that can serve as the basis for a sub stantive physicalism. But such arguments miss the mark, for participants to the physicalism debates do not disagree about the boundary of the physical, which, while roughly drawn is clear enough for debate to proceed. Rather, participants disagree on whether there are any entities over and above those entities they agree are physical. Hence the viability of physicalism primarily depends on the over and above distinction. ;I argue that existing accounts of over and aboveness are inadequate, for the key class of cases where two properties are instanced in a single subject, and one property is supposed to necessitate the other, with at least nomological necessity. I go on to provide an adequate account of over and aboveness, by reference to the notion of a fundamental force . We can formulate physicalism and emergentism using Force-relative Over and Aboveness: according to physicalism, all causal powers bestowed by all properties are grounded only in fundamental physical forces; according to emergentism, some causal powers are grounded in a new fundamental force, different from any physical force. ;Understanding over and aboveness as involving fundamental forces is not new. But arguments against forces have lately been accepted; hence the notable absence of forces from contemporary philosophizing. I distinguish two uses of 'force', and show that these arguments do not tell against fundamental forces. I then give positive arguments for admitting fundamental forces, stemming from the reasonable hypothesis that fundamental forces are collections of interacting fields. Forces, so understood, are ontologically defensible; and thus can serve as the needed basis for formulating physicalism and emergentism
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