About this topic
Summary The claim that physics is causally closed is also sometimes referred to as the ‘Completeness of Physics’ (e.g. Papineau 1991). For physics to be causally closed, all physical events (facts, etc.) must be due to physical causes. This claim is a crucial premise in the ‘causal’ or ‘no overdetermination argument’ for physicalism. Given this premise, anything else that has physical effects – for example mental events – must, it is then argued, supervene on, or reduce to, or be identical with (etc.) something physical unless we are prepared to accept systematic over-determination. Dualistic interactionists tend to deny the completeness of physics (some physical events have fundamentally mental causes). According to some versions of emergence, or downward causation, there are physical events that are at least partly due to non-physical causes (see, e.g. Gillett 2002 and Wilson 2015). If physics is not causally closed, then physicalism in any form is probably false.
Key works

A useful historical account of the rise of the view that physics is complete is Papineau 2001. For an extended treatment of the topic see Spurrett 1999. Among recent papers directly focused on the issue, see Lowe 2000, Montero 2003, Vicente 2006, Corry 2013, Garcia 2014, and Tiehen 2015.


Relevant encyclopedia articles include Robb & Heil 2008 (especially section 2.3) and Stoljar 2001 (especially section 16).

Related categories

105 found
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  1. Physics and Fundamentality.Ney Alyssa - manuscript
    What justifies the allocation of funding to research in physics when many would argue research in the life and social sciences may have more immediate impact in transforming our world for the better? Many of the justifications for such spending depend on the claim that physics enjoys a kind of special status vis-a-vis the other sciences, that physics or at least some branches of physics exhibit a form of fundamentality. The goal of this paper is to articulate a conception of (...)
  2. Since Physical Formulas Are Not Violated, No Soul Controls the Body.Leonard Angel - 2015 - In Keith Augustine & Michael Martin (eds.), The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 377-391.
    This paper provides evidence from the history of the natural sciences in philosophy (particularly mathematical physics, chemistry, and biology) that a “piloting” soul would have to make physical changes in human beings violating well-established physical laws. But, among other things, it has been discovered that there can be no such changes, and thus that there is no piloting soul. -/- 1. Introduction -- 2. Suitable Restrictions in Physical Theories -- 3. Evidence that Physical Formulas are not Violated -- 4. How (...)
  3. Experimental Methods for Unraveling the Mind-Body Problem: The Phenomenal Judgment Approach.Victor Argonov - 2014 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 35 (1-2):51-70.
    A rigorous approach to the study of the mind–body problem is suggested. Since humans are able to talk about consciousness (produce phenomenal judgments), it is argued that the study of neural mechanisms of phenomenal judgments can solve the hard problem of consciousness. Particular methods are suggested for: (1) verification and falsification of materialism; (2) verification and falsification of interactionism; (3) falsification of epiphenomenalism and parallelism (verification is problematic); (4) verification of particular materialistic theories of consciousness; (5) a non-Turing test for (...)
  4. Determinism, Causation, Prediction, and the Affine Time Group.Harald Atmanspacher & Thomas Filk - 2012 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 19 (5-6):5-6.
    This contribution addresses major distinctions between the notions of determinism, causation, and prediction, as they are typically used in the sciences. Formally, this can be elegantly achieved by two ingredients: (i) the distinction of ontic and epistemic states of a system, and (ii) temporal symmetry breakings based on the mathematical concept of the affine time group. Key aspects of the theory of deterministically chaotic systems together with historical quotations from Laplace, Maxwell, and Poincare provide significant illustrations. An important point of (...)
  5. A Defense of Naturalism.Keith Augustine - 2001 - Dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park
    The first part of this essay discusses what naturalism in the philosophy of religion should entail for one's ontology, considers various proposed criteria for categorizing something as natural, uses an analysis of these proposed criteria to develop theoretical criteria for both the natural and nonnatural, and develops a set of criteria for identifying a potentially supernatural event in practice. The second part of the essay presents a persuasive empirical case for naturalism based on the lack of uncontroversial evidence for any (...)
  6. Simple Mindedness: In Defense of Naive Naturalism in the Philosophy of Mind.Katalin Balog & Jennifer Hornsby - 1999 - Philosophical Review 108 (4):562.
    Hornsby is a defender of a position in the philosophy of mind she calls “naïve naturalism”. She argues that current discussions of the mind-body problem have been informed by an overly scientistic view of nature and a futile attempt by scientific naturalists to see mental processes as part of the physical universe. In her view, if naïve naturalism were adopted, the mind-body problem would disappear. I argue that her brand of anti-physicalist naturalism runs into difficulties with the problem of mental (...)
  7. Benedikt Paul Goecke, Ed., After Physicalism. Reviewed By.Matteo Benocci - 2015 - Philosophy in Review 35 (4):198-200.
    This is a review of After Phyiscalism (ed. B. P. Göcke, University of Notre Dame Press 2012), a collection of eleven essays addressing the mind-body problem from a non-physicalist point of view.
  8. Overdetermination Underdetermined.Sara Bernstein - 2016 - Erkenntnis 81 (1):17-40.
    Widespread causal overdetermination is often levied as an objection to nonreductive theories of minds and objects. In response, nonreductive metaphysicians have argued that the type of overdetermination generated by their theories is different from the sorts of coincidental cases involving multiple rock-throwers, and thus not problematic. This paper pushes back. I argue that attention to differences between types of overdetermination discharges very few explanatory burdens, and that overdetermination is a bigger problem for the nonreductive metaphysician than previously thought.
  9. The Via Negativa: Not the Way to Physicalism.Robert Bishop - 2010 - Mind and Matter 8 (2):203-214.
    A recent defense of the causal argument for physicalism is to defune the physical in terms of the non-mental. This move is designed to defuse Hempel's dilemma, one version of which is taken to the problem that the physical cannot be successfully defined in terms of either present-day or a future completed physics. I argue that the inductive support offered for this non-mental move simply begs the question for physicalism.
  10. The Hidden Premise in the Causal Argument for Physicalism.Robert C. Bishop - 2005 - Analysis 66 (1):44-52.
    The causal argument for physicalism is anayzed and it's key premise--the causal closure of physics--is found wanting. Therefore, a hidden premise must be added to the argument to gain its conclusion, but the hidden premise is indistinguishable from the conclusion of the causal argument. Therefore, it begs the question on physicalism.
  11. Anomalous Dualism: A New Approach to the Mind-Body Problem.David Bourget - forthcoming - In William Seager (ed.), The Handbook of Panpsychism. Routledge.
    We can classify theories of consciousness along two dimensions. First, a theory might be physicalist or dualist. Second, a theory might endorse any of these three views regarding causal relations between phenomenal properties (properties that characterize states of our consciousness) and physical properties: nomism (the two kinds of property interact through deterministic laws), acausalism (they do not causally interact), and anomalism (they interact but not through deterministic laws). In this paper, I explore anomalous dualism, a combination of views that has (...)
  12. Why Survival is Metaphysically Impossible.Raymond D. Bradley - 2015 - In Keith Augustine & Michael Martin (eds.), The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 297-328.
    Human bodies have a totally different mode of existence from those collections of mental properties (intelligence, will power, consciousness, etc.) that we call minds. They belong to the ontological category of physical substances or entities, whereas mental properties belong to the ontological category of properties or attributes, and as such can exist only so long as their physical bearers exist. Mental properties “emerge” (in a sense that makes emergence ubiquitous throughout the natural world) when the constituent parts of a biological (...)
  13. Can the Russellian Monist Escape the Epiphenomenalist’s Paradox?Lok-Chi Chan - forthcoming - Topoi:1-10.
    Russellian monism—an influential doctrine proposed by Russell (The analysis of matter, Routledge, London, 1927/1992)—is roughly the view that physics can only ever tell us about the causal, dispositional, and structural properties of physical entities and not their categorical (or intrinsic) properties, whereas our qualia are constituted by those categorical properties. In this paper, I will discuss the relation between Russellian monism and a seminal paradox facing epiphenomenalism, the paradox of phenomenal judgment: if epiphenomenalism is true—qualia are causally inefficacious—then any judgment (...)
  14. The Doctrine of Conservation of Energy in its Relation to the Elimination of Force as a Factor in the Cosmos.Charles H. Chase - 1899 - The Monist 10 (1):135-142.
  15. Why Incompatibilism About Mental Causation is Incompatible with Non-Reductive Physicalism.Jonas Christensen & Umut Baysan - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    The exclusion problem is meant to show that non-reductive physicalism leads to epiphenomenalism: if mental properties are not identical with physical properties, then they are not causally efficacious. Defenders of a difference-making account of causation suggest that the exclusion problem can be solved because mental properties can be difference-making causes of physical effects. Here, we focus on what we dub an incompatibilist implementation of this general strategy and argue against it from a non-reductive physicalist perspective. Specifically, we argue that incompatibilism (...)
  16. God, Physicalism, and the Totality of Facts.Andrea Christofidou - 2007 - Philosophy 82 (4):515-542.
    The paper offers a general critique of physicalism and of one variety of nonphysicalism, arguing that such theses are untenable. By distinguishing between the absolute conception of reality and the causal completeness of physics it shows that the 'explanatory gap' is not merely epistemic but metaphysical. It defends the essential subjectivity and unity of consciousness and its inseparability from a self-conscious autonomous rational and moral being. Casting a favourable light on dualism freed from misconceptions, it suggests that the only plausible (...)
  17. Emerging From the Causal Drain.Richard Corry - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 165 (1):29-47.
    For over 20 years, Jaegwon Kim’s Causal Exclusion Argument has stood as the major hurdle for non-reductive physicalism. If successful, Kim’s argument would show that the high-level properties posited by non-reductive physicalists must either be identical with lower-level physical properties, or else must be causally inert. The most prominent objection to the Causal Exclusion Argument—the so-called Overdetermination Objection—points out that there are some notions of causation that are left untouched by the argument. If causation is simply counterfactual dependence, for example, (...)
  18. The Mental Causation Debate.Tim Crane - 1995 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 69:211-36.
    This paper is about a puzzle which lies at the heart of contemporary physicalist theories of mind. On the one hand, the original motivation for physicalism was the need to explain the place of mental causation in the physical world. On the other hand, physicalists have recently come to see the explanation of mental causation as one of their major problems. But how can this be? How can it be that physicalist theories still have a problem explaining something which their (...)
  19. A Note on the Completeness of 'Physics'. DavidSpurrett & DavidPapineau - 1999 - Analysis 59 (1):25–29.
  20. Le dualisme de Bergson à la lumière de la physique.Joël Dolbeault - 2012 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 137 (2):191-207.
    Le dualisme est peu répandu aujourd'hui, en philosophie de l'esprit. Le plus souvent, il est réduit au dualisme de Descartes, dont certaines faiblesses permettent une critique facile. Pourtant, un autre classique, plus proche de nous, défend un dualisme différent de Descartes : il s'agit de Bergson. Un des traits les plus intéressants du dualisme de Bergson est qu'il s'accompagne d'une conception relativement précise de la matière, qui rencontre assez bien la physique d'aujourd'hui. En comparaison, le physicalisme contemporain semble indifférent à (...)
  21. Are Souls Real?Jerome W. Elbert - 2000 - Prometheus Books.
  22. Scientific Ontology.Johan Gamper - forthcoming - Axiomathes:1-4.
    The modal properties of the principle of the causal closure of the physical have traditionally been said to prevent anything outside the physical world from affecting the physical universe and vice versa. This idea has been shown to be relative to the definition of the principle (Gamper 2017). A traditional definition prevents the one universe from affecting any other universe, but with a modified definition, e.g. (ibid.), the causal closure of the physical can be consistent with the possibility of one (...)
  23. On a Loophole in Causal Closure.Johan Gamper - 2017 - Philosophia 45 (2):631-636.
    Standard definitions of causal closure focus on where the causes in question are. In this paper, the focus is changed to where they are not. Causal closure is linked to the principle that no cause of another universe causes an event in a particular universe. This view permits the one universe to be affected by the other via an interface. An interface between universes can be seen as a domain that violates the suggested account of causal closure, suggesting a view (...)
  24. Closing in on Causal Closure.Robert K. Garcia - 2014 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 21 (1-2):96-109.
    I examine the meaning and merits of a premise in the Exclusion Argument, the causal closure principle that all physical effects have physical causes. I do so by addressing two questions. First, if we grant the other premises, exactly what kind of closure principle is required to make the Exclusion Argument valid? Second, what are the merits of the requisite closure principle? Concerning the first, I argue that the Exclusion Argument requires a strong, “stringently pure” version of closure. The latter (...)
  25. Dualism: How Epistemic Issues Drive Debates About the Ontology of Consciousness.Brie Gertler - forthcoming - In Uriah Kriegel (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Consciousness. Oxford University Press.
    A primary goal of this chapter is to highlight neglected epistemic parallels between dualism and physicalism. Both dualist and physicalist arguments employ a combination of empirical data and armchair reflection; both rely on considerations stemming from how we conceptualize certain phenomena; and both aim to establish views that are compatible with scientific results but go well beyond the deliverances of empirical science. -/- I begin the chapter by fleshing out the distinctive commitments of dualism, in a way that illuminates the (...)
  26. The Causal Closure Principle.Sophie Gibb - 2015 - Philosophical Quarterly 65 (261):626-647.
  27. Nonreductive Physicalism and the Problem of Strong Closure.Sophie Gibb - 2012 - American Philosophical Quarterly 49 (1):29-42.
    Closure is the central premise in one of the best arguments for physicalism—the argument from causal overdetermination. According to Closure, at every time at which a physical event has a sufficient cause, it has a sufficient physical cause. This principle is standardly defended by appealing to the fact that it enjoys empirical support from numerous confirming cases (and no disconfirming cases) in physics. However, in recent literature on mental causation, attempts have been made to provide a stronger argument for it. (...)
  28. Mental Causation.Rodolfo Giorgi & Andrea Lavazza - 2018 - Aphex 17.
    This article aims to provide a brief overview of mental causation problem and its current proposed solutions. Indeed, mental causation turns out as one of the most difficult philosophical conundrums in contemporary philosophy of mind. In the first two sections, we offer an outline of the problem and the philosophical debate about it, and show that mental causation problem is pivotal within the contemporary philosophy of mind. In the third section, we focus on the most popular models of mental causation, (...)
  29. Scientific Essentialism and the Mental.Simone Gozzano - 2012 - Rivista di Filosofia 103 (2):201-226.
    The major objection for including mental properties, and laws, within the domain of scientific essentialism concerns phenomenal properties, and such an objection is often raised via the intuition that zombies are conceivable. However, if these properties can be individuated in terms of roles and establish nomological relations, zombies are not possible because they would be nomologically identical to us but property different, an independence that essentialism denies. If there are not nomological relations, the essentialist denies that there are phenomenal properties, (...)
  30. Pensieri Materiali: Corpo, Mente E Causalità.Simone Gozzano - 2007 - Utet Università.
    Un uomo in cappa e cilindro di fronte a voi promette: “muoverò la materia con la sola forza del pensiero”. Scettici aspettate la prova. Ed ecco che, mirabilmente, egli alza un braccio. Un braccio, il suo braccio! Un pezzo di materia, dotato di massa, carica elettrica, proprietà magnetiche e quant’altro, si è mosso solo grazie alla sua volontà di alzarlo. Con la sola forza del pensiero il braccio si è sollevato! Per quanti sforzi retorici faccia, nessuno riterrà particolarmente sorprendente l’esperimento. (...)
  31. How To Get Rid of Closure.Mariusz Grygianiec - 2016 - Diametros 48:1-17.
    Sophie Gibb has recently invented a very interesting strategy against Kim’s causal exclusion argument. This strategy adopts the powers theory of causation and an interpretation of mental causation in terms of double prevention. Gibb’s strategy results both in invalidating the principle of the causal closure of the physical domain in most of its formulations and in disarming the argument in question. In my paper, I present a general procedure for the opponents of reductive physicalism which enables them to _grapple successfully_ (...)
  32. Anomalous Monism and Physical Closure.Nancy Slonneger Hancock - 2001 - Journal of Philosophical Research 26 (January):175-185.
    The principle of the anomalousness of the mental (PAM) is one of the most controversial principles in Donald Davidson’s argument for anomalous monism (AM). It states that there cannot be any laws (psychophysical or psychological) on the basis of which mental events can be predicted and explained. The argument against such psychological laws rests on the claim that psychology is not a comprehensive closed system (though physics is). Here I sketch the argument for AM, focusing on the role of PAM (...)
  33. No Microphysical Causation? No Problem: Selective Causal Skepticism and the Structure of Completeness-Based Arguments for Physicalism.Matthew C. Haug - forthcoming - Synthese:1-22.
    A number of philosophers have argued that causation is not an objective feature of the microphysical world but rather is a perspectival phenomenon that holds only between “coarse-grained” entities such as those that figure in the special sciences. This view seems to pose a problem for arguments for physicalism that rely on the alleged causal completeness of physics. In this paper, I address this problem by arguing that the completeness of physics has two components, only one of which is causal. (...)
  34. Two Kinds of Completeness and the Uses (and Abuses) of Exclusion Principles.Matthew C. Haug - 2009 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 47 (4):379-401.
    I argue that the completeness of physics is composed of two distinct claims. The first is the commonly made claim that, roughly, every physical event is completely causally determined by physical events. The second has rarely, if ever, been explicitly stated in the literature and is the claim that microphysics provides a complete inventory of the fundamental categories that constitute both the causal features and intrinsic nature of all the events that causally affect the physical universe. After showing that these (...)
  35. Mental Causation.John Heil & Alfred Mele (eds.) - 1993 - Clarendon Press.
    Common sense and philosophical tradition agree that mind makes a difference. What we do depends not only on how our bodies are put together, but also on what we think. Explaining how mind can make a difference has proved challenging, however. Some have urged that the project faces an insurmountable dilemma: either we concede that mentalistic explanations of behaviour have only a pragmatic standing, or we abandon our conception of the physical domain as causally autonomous. Although each option has its (...)
  36. Einige Bemerkungen zum Prinzip der kausalen Abgeschlossenheit des Physischen.Andreas Hüttemann - 2013 - In Jan Michel & Gernot Münster (eds.), Die Suche nach dem Geist. mentis.
  37. Mental Causation as Teleological Causation.Andrew J. Jaeger - 2011 - Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 85:161-171.
    I argue that the Causal Closure Argument (CCA) and the Explanatory Exclusion Argument (EEA) fail to show that mental causes must either be reduced/ identical to physical causes or that mental causes are epiphenomenal. I begin by granting the soundness of CCA and EEA and go on to argue that they only rule out irreducible mental efficient causes/explanations. A proponent of irreducible mental causation can, therefore, grant the soundness of CCA and EEA, provided she holds mental causation/explanation to be teleological. (...)
  38. The Causal Closure of Physics: An Explanation and Critique.Kile Jones - 2008 - World Futures 64 (3):179 – 186.
    Is the physical world causally closed? Can something immaterial have any causal role within physics? This article seeks to answer these questions by explaining the theory of Causal Closure. Causal Closure says that nothing immaterial can have any causal efficacy upon the material world. Physicalists have long held this position and have used it as an argument against Dualism, but does it hold? The hope of this article is that we may better understand the arguments for and against Causal Closure (...)
  39. The Unplanned Obsolescence of Psychological Science and an Argument for its Revival.Stan Klein - 2016 - Pyshcology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice 3:357-379.
    I examine some of the key scientific pre-commitments of modern psychology, and argue that their adoption has the unintended consequence of rendering a purely psychological analysis of mind indistinguishable from a purely biological treatment. And, since these pre-commitments sanction an “authority of the biological”, explanation of phenomena traditionally considered the purview of psychological analysis is fully subsumed under the biological. I next evaluate the epistemic warrant of these pre-commitments and suggest there are good reasons to question their applicability to psychological (...)
  40. Science - A Challenge to Philosophy?H. J. Koskinen, R. Vilkko & S. Philström (eds.) - 2006 - Peter Lang.
  41. My Brain Made Me Do It: The Exclusion Argument Against Free Will, and What’s Wrong with It.Christian List & Peter Menzies - 2017 - In H. Beebee, C. Hitchcock & H. Price (eds.), Making a Difference. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    We offer a critical assessment of the “exclusion argument” against free will, which may be summarized by the slogan: “My brain made me do it, therefore I couldn't have been free”. While the exclusion argument has received much attention in debates about mental causation (“could my mental states ever cause my actions?”), it is seldom discussed in relation to free will. However, the argument informally underlies many neuroscientific discussions of free will, especially the claim that advances in neuroscience seriously challenge (...)
  42. Causal Closure Principles and Emergentism.E. J. Lowe - 2000 - Philosophy 75 (294):571-586.
    Causal closure arguments against interactionist dualism are currently popular amongst physicalists. Such an argument appeals to some principles of the causal closure of the physical, together with certain other premises, to conclude that at least some mental events are identical with physical events. However, it is crucial to the success of any such argument that the physical causal closure principle to which it appeals is neither too strong nor too weak by certain standards. In this paper, it is argued that (...)
  43. Emergence and Downward Causation.Cynthia Macdonald & Graham Macdonald - 2010 - In Cynthia Macdonald & Graham Macdonald (eds.), Emergence in Mind. Oxford University Press.
  44. Man Without Qualities. [REVIEW]Leslie Marsh - manuscript
    The question of how a physical system gives rise to the phenomenal or experiential (olfactory, visual, somatosensitive, gestatory and auditory), is considered the most intractable of scientific and philosophical puzzles. Though this question has dominated the philosophy of mind over the last quarter century, it articulates a version of the age-old mind-body problem. The most famous response, Cartesian dualism, is on Daniel Dennett’s view still a corrosively residual and redundant feature of popular (and academic) thinking on these matters. Fifteen years (...)
  45. Understanding Sensations.Nicholas Maxwell - 1968 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 46 (2):127-146.
    My aim in this paper is to defend a version of the brain process theory, or identity thesis, which differs in one important respect from the theory put forward by J.J.C. Smart. I shall argue that although the sensations which a person experiences are, as a matter of contingent fact, brain processes, nonetheless there are facts about sensations which cannot be described or understood in terms of any physical theory. These 'mental' facts cannot be described by physics for the simple (...)
  46. Miracles: Metaphysics, Physics, and Physicalism.Kirk Mcdermid - 2008 - Religious Studies 44 (2):125-147.
    Debates about the metaphysical compatibility between miracles and natural laws often appear to prejudge the issue by either adopting or rejecting a strong physicalist thesis (the idea that the physical is all that exists). The operative component of physicalism is a causal closure principle: that every caused event is a physically caused event. If physicalism and this strong causal closure principle are accepted, then supernatural interventions are rules out ’tout court’, while rejecting physicalism gives miracles metaphysical carte blanche. This paper (...)
  47. Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind.Brian P. McLaughlin & Jonathan Cohen (eds.) - 2007 - Wiley-Blackwell.
  48. Some Evidence for Physicalism.Andrew Melnyk - 2003 - In Sven Walter & Heinz-Dieter Heckmann (eds.), Physicalism and Mental Causation. Imprint Academic. pp. 155-172.
    This paper presents an irreducibly inductive argument for physicalism based on the causal closure of the physical (for which it argues), and defends it against various detractors.
  49. Mental Causation and the Causal Completeness of Physics.Wilson Mendonça - 2010 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 6 (1):121-132.
    The paper takes issue with a widely accepted view of mental causation. This is the view that mental causation is either reducible to physical causation or ultimately untenable, because incompatible with the causal completeness of physics. The paper examines, first, why recent attempts to save the phenomena of mental causation by way of the notion of supervenient causation fail. The result of this examination is the claim that any attempted specification of the most basic causal factors which supposedly underlie a (...)
  50. The Causal Closure Principle of the Physical Domain and Quantum Mechanics.Joseph Mixie - 1996 - Diálogos. Revista de Filosofía de la Universidad de Puerto Rico 31 (68):119-126.
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