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 2010 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

90 found
1 — 50 / 90
  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. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. The Hidden Premise in the Causal Argument for Physicalism.Robert C. Bishop - 2006 - Analysis 66 (289):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.
  10. 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 (...)
  11. 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.
  12. 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 (...)
  13. 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, (...)
  14. 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 (...)
  15. A Note on the Completeness of 'Physics'. DavidSpurrett & DavidPapineau - 1999 - Analysis 59 (261):25–29.
  16. Le dualisme de Bergson à la lumière de la physique.Joël Dolbeault - 2012 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 202 (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 (...)
  17. Are Souls Real?Jerome W. Elbert - 2000 - Prometheus Books.
  18. 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 (...)
  19. 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 (...)
  20. The Causal Closure Principle.Sophie Gibb - 2015 - Philosophical Quarterly 65 (261):626-647.
  21. 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. (...)
  22. 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. (...)
  23. How To Get Rid of Closure.Mariusz Grygianiec - forthcoming - Diametros: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_ (...)
  24. Anomalous Monism and Physical Closure.Hancock Nancy Slonneger - 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 (...)
  25. 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 (...)
  26. Mental Causation.John Heil & Alfred Mele (eds.) - 1993 - Clarendon Press.
    I argue that the two standard models of mental causation fail to capture the crucial causal relevance of the reason-giving relations involved. Their common error is an exclusively mechanical conception of causation, on which any justification is bound to be independent of the causal process involved, based upon a general rule from which the correctness of the particular case follows only by subsumption. I establish possibility of an alternative model, by sketching an account of the causal dependence of perceptual knowledge (...)
  27. Einige Bemerkungen zum Prinzip der kausalen Abgeschlossenheit des Physischen.Andreas Hüttemann - 2013 - In Jan Michel & Gernot Münster (eds.), Die Suche nach dem Geist. mentis.
  28. 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. (...)
  29. 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 (...)
  30. The Unplanned Obsolescence of Psychological Science and an Argument for its Revival.Stan Klein - forthcoming - Pyshcology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice.
    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 (...)
  31. Science - A Challenge to Philosophy?H. J. Koskinen, R. Vilkko & S. Philström (eds.) - 2006 - Peter Lang.
  32. 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 (...)
  33. 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 (...)
  34. Emergence and Downward Causation.Cynthia Macdonald & Graham Macdonald - 2010 - In Cynthia Macdonald & Graham Macdonald (eds.), Emergence in Mind. Oxford University Press.
  35. 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 (...)
  36. Understanding Sensations.Nicholas Maxwell - 1968 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 46 (August):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 (...)
  37. 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 (...)
  38. Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind.Brian P. McLaughlin & Jonathan Cohen (eds.) - 2007 - Wiley-Blackwell.
  39. 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.
  40. 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 (...)
  41. The Causal Closure Principle of the Physical Domain and Quantum Mechanics.Joseph Mixie - 1996 - Dialogos 31:119-126.
  42. Interactionism, Energy Conservation, and the Violation of Physical Laws.Ulrich Mohrhoff - 1997 - Physics Essays 10 (4):651–665.
    The law of energy conservation is either analytic and not threatened by psychophysical interactionism or contingent upon the causal closure of the physical world which interactionism denies. In either case, interactionism implies departures from the laws of physics, despite attempts to demonstrate the contrary by exploiting the loophole of quantum mechanical indeterminism. These departures are best formulated in terms of modifications, by the conscious self, of the electromagnetic interactions between particles. The electromagnetic vector potential is essentially a summary representation of (...)
  43. What Does the Conservation of Energy Have to Do with Physicalism?Barbara Montero - 2006 - Dialectica 60 (4):383-396.
    The conservation of energy law, a law of physics that states that the total energy of any closed system is always conserved, is a bedrock principle that has achieved both broad theoretical and experimental support. Yet if interactive dualism is correct, it is thought that the mind can affect physical objects in violation of the conservation of energy. Thus, some claim, the conservation of energy grounds an argument for physicalism. Although critics of the argument focus on the implausibility of causation (...)
  44. The Epistemic/Ontic Divide.Barbara Montero - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66 (2):404 - 418.
    A number of philosophers think that, while we cannot explain how the mind is physical, we can know that it is physical, nonetheless. That is, they accept both the explanatory gap between the mental and the physical and ontological physicalism. I argue that this position is unstable. Among other things, I argue that once one accepts the explanatory gap, the main argument for ontological physicalism, the argument from causation, looses its force. For if one takes physical/nonphysical causation and ontological physicalism (...)
  45. Varieties of Causal Closure.Barbara Montero - 2003 - In Sven Walter & Heinz-Dieter Heckmann (eds.), Physicalism and Mental Causation. Imprint Academic. pp. 173-187.
  46. A Defense of the Via Negativa Argument for Physicalism.Barbara Montero & David Papineau - 2005 - Analysis 65 (287):233-237.
  47. Causal Closure, Causal Exclusion, and Supervenience Physicalism.Kevin Morris - 2014 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 95 (1):72-86.
    This article considers the recent defense of the supervenience approach to physicalism due to Jaegwon Kim. Kim argues that supervenience supports physical causal closure, and that causal closure supports physicalism – indeed, a kind of reductive physicalism – and thus that supervenience suffices for physicalism. After laying out Kim's argument, I ask whether its success would truly vindicate the role of supervenience in defining physicalist positions. I argue that it would not, and that insofar as Kim's defense of supervenience physicalism (...)
  48. The Causal Contribution of Mental Events.Alyssa Ney - 2012 - In Hill Christopher & Gozzano Simone (eds.), New Perspectives on Type Identity: The Mental and the Physical. Cambridge University Press. pp. 230.
  49. Downward Causation: An Opinionated Introduction.Michele Paolini Paoletti & Francesco Orilia - 2017 - In Michele Paolini Paoletti & Francesco Orilia (eds.), Philosophical and Scientific Perspectives on Downward Causation. New York: Routledge. pp. 1-21.
    Downward causation is a widespread and problematic phenomenon. It is typically defined as the causation of lower-level effects by higher-level entities. Downward causation is widespread, as there are many examples of it across different sciences: a cell constraints what happens to its own constituents; a body regulates its own processes; two atoms, when they are appropriately related, make it the case that their own electrons are distributed in certain ways. However, downward causation is also problematic. Roughly, it seems to be (...)
  50. There is No Trace of Any Soul Linked to the Body.David Papineau - 2015 - In Keith Augustine & Michael Martin (eds.), The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 369-376.
    This paper argues that all apparently special forces characteristically reduce to a few fundamental physical forces which conserve energy and operate throughout nature. Consequently, there are probably no special mental forces originating from souls and acting upon bodies and brains in addition to the basic, energy-conserving physical forces. Moreover, physiological and biochemical research have failed to uncover any evidence of forces over and above the basic physical forces acting on living bodies. It is as if all organic processes can be (...)
1 — 50 / 90