This paper interprets and criticizes some of the views presented in Sydney Shoemaker’s book, Physical Realization (Oxford University Press, 2007), on the topic of how mental properties are realized by physical properties, given that, on his view, human persons are not even token-identical with human bodies.
I develop the conjecture that “naturalism” in philosophy names not a thesis but a paradigm in something like Thomas Kuhn’s sense, i.e., a set of commitments, shared by a group of investigators, whose acceptance by the members of the group powerfully influences their day-to-day investigative practice. I take a stab at spelling out the shared commitments that make up naturalism, and the logical and evidential relations among them.
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.
This article's goal is to outline one approach to providing a principled answer to the question of what is the proper relationship between philosophy and the study of philosophy's history, a question arising, for example, in the design of a curriculum for graduate students. This approach requires empirical investigation of philosophizing past and present, and thus takes philosophy as an object of study in something like the way that contemporary (naturalistic) philosophy of science takes science as an object of study. (...) This approach also requires articulating a sense in which philosophy might make, or might have made, progress. (shrink)
Twenty years ago, Richard Boyd suggested that physicalism could be formulated by appeal to a notion of realization, with no appeal to the identity of the non-physical with the physical. In (Melnyk 2003), I developed this suggestion at length, on the basis of one particular account of realization. I now ask what happens if you try to formulate physicalism on the basis of other accounts of realization, accounts due to LePore and Loewer and to Shoemaker. Having explored two new formulations (...) of physicalism, I conclude that my 2003 formulation remains the most promising. (shrink)
Abstract: My goal in this paper is to provide critical discussion of Michael Rea’s case for three of the controversial theses defended in his World Without Design: (1) that naturalism must be viewed as what he calls a “research program”; (2) that naturalism “cannot be adopted on the basis of evidence,” as he puts it; and (3) that naturalists cannot be justified in accepting realism about material objects.
A Physicalist Manifesto is the fullest treatment yet of the comprehensive physicalist view that, in some important sense, everything is physical. Andrew Melnyk argues that the view is best formulated by appeal to a carefully worked-out notion of realization, rather than supervenience; that, so formulated, physicalism must be importantly reductionist; that it need not repudiate causal and explanatory claims framed in non-physical language; and that it has the a posteriori epistemic status of a broad-scope scientific hypothesis. Two concluding chapters argue (...) in unprecedented detail that contemporary science provides no significant empirical evidence against physicalism and some considerable evidence for it. Written in a brisk, candid, and exceptionally clear style, this book should appeal to professionals and students in philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and philosophy of science. (shrink)
Two ways are considered of formulating a version of retentive physicalism, the view that in some important sense everything is physical, even though there do exist properties, e.g. higher-level scientific ones, which cannot be type-identified with physical properties. The first way makes use of disjunction, but is rejected on the grounds that the results yield claims that are either false or insufficiently materialist. The second way, realisation physicalism, appeals to the correlative notions of a functional property and its realisation, and (...) states, roughly, that any actual property whatsoever is either itself a physical property or else is, ultimately, realised by instances of physical properties. Realisation physicalism is distinctive since it makes no claims of identity whatsoever, and involves no appeal to the dubious concept of supervenience. After an attempt to formulate realisation physicalism more precisely, I explore a way in which, in principle, we could obtain evidence of its truth. (shrink)
Discussion of Searle's case against strong AI has usually focused upon his Chinese Room thought-experiment. In this paper, however, I expound and then try to refute what I call his abstract argument against strong AI, an argument which turns upon quite general considerations concerning programs, syntax, and semantics, and which seems not to depend on intuitions about the Chinese Room. I claim that this argument fails, since it assumes one particular account of what a program is. I suggest an alternative (...) account which, however, cannot play a role in a Searle-type argument, and argue that Searle gives no good reason for favoring his account, which allows the abstract argument to work, over the alternative, which doesn't. This response to Searle's abstract argument also, incidentally, enables the Robot Reply to the Chinese Room to defend itself against objections Searle makes to it. (shrink)
If physicalism is true (e.g., if every event is a fundamental-physical event), then it looks as if there is a fundamental-physical explanation of everything. If so, then what is to become of special scientific explanations? They seem to be excluded by the fundamental-physical ones, and indeed to be excellent candidates for elimination. I argue that, if physicalism is true, there probably is a fundamental-physical explanation of everything, but that nevertheless there can perfectly well be special scientific explanations as well, notwithstanding (...) eliminativist scruples concerning overdetermination and Ockham's Razor. (shrink)
Any philosopher sympathetic to physicaIism (or materiaIism) will allow that there is some sense in which ordinary objects---tables and chairs, etc.---are physicaI. But what sense, exactly? John Post holds a view implying that every ordinary object is identical with some or other spatio-temporal sum of fundamental entities. I begin by deploying a modal argument intended to show that ordinary objects, for example elephants, are not identical with spatio-temporal sums of such entities. Then I claim that appeal to David Lewis’s counterpart (...) theory, even if acceptable in principle, would not permit Post to make a plausible reply to this argument. Finally, I sketch an alternative account of ordinary objects, which does not require identity with spatio-temporal sums of fundamental physical entities, and argue that, despite Post’s protestations, this account is acceptably physicalist: his identity claims are not required for physicalism. (shrink)
I argue that a certain version of physicalism, which is viewed by both its admirers and its detractors as non-reductionist, in fact entails two claims which, though not reductionist in the currently most popular sense of 'reductionist', conform to the spirit of reductionism sufficiently closely to compromise its claim to be a comprehensively non-reductionist version of physicalism. Putatively non-reductionist versions of physicalism in general, I suggest, are likely to be non-reductionist only in some senses, but not in others, and hence (...) to disappoint those who wish to be physicalists but still to remain soft and cuddly non-reductionists. (shrink)