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Physicalism is the metaphysical thesis that everything is, in some important sense, physical. But in what sense is everything physical? Must everything reduce to physics? Must all terms be translatable into physical terms? What does it take for something to count as ''physical''? This category contains works that relate to the question ''What is physicalism?’’. These works utilize a wide variety of tools and approaches in their attempts to spell out what physicalism is.

Key works "Hempel's dilemma'' (Hempel 1969, Crane & Mellor 1990) claims that no non-trivial formulation of physicalism can be given. In this vein, Stoljar 2010 argues that there is no thesis that is both potentially true and deserving of the name 'physicalism'.  Discussions of Hempel's dilemma can also be found in Dowell 2006, Melnyk 1997, and Wilson 2006. All the above works, in addition to Stoljar 2001a, 2001b, Chalmers 2003 (section 7), and Wilson 2006 discuss what it takes for something to count as ''physical''. Classic statements of an early form of materialism, the mind-brain identity theory, can be found in Place 1956, Feigl 1958 and Smart 1959. Chalmers 1996, Jackson 1994, Kim 1993, and Lewis 1983 use the tools of metaphysical modality and supervenience to formulate physicalism. Wilson 2005 provides reasons to be skeptical of such accounts. Melnyk 2003, 2006 formulates physicalism using the notion of realization, while Leuenberger 2008 uses ceteris absentibus sufficiency. Chalmers 2003 provides a useful taxonomy of physicalist positions, organized with respect to how they respond to the hard problem of consciousness. Kim 1998 covers a variety of topics relevant to both formulating and evaluating physicalism, including supervenience, reductive vs non-reductive physicalism, and the causal closure of the physical.
Introductions Stoljar 2001, Stoljar 2010, and Dowell 2006 are good starting places for the difficulties surrounding formulating physicalism. Smart 2007 offers an overview of the development of the mind-brain identity theory. Crane & Mellor 1990 contains a pressing formulation of Hempel's dilemma. Stoljar 2010 covers a wide variety of attempts to characterize ''the physical''.
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229 found
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  1. added 2019-03-19
    The Conceptual Link From Physical to Mental by Robert Kirk. [REVIEW]D. Gene Witmer - 2014 - Analysis 74 (3):552-556.
  2. added 2019-03-19
    Stalking the Elusive Physicalist Thesis. [REVIEW]D. Gene Witmer - 2012 - Metascience 21 (1):71-75.
    Stalking the elusive physicalist thesis Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-5 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9528-2 Authors D. Gene Witmer, Department of Philosophy, University of Florida, P. O. Box 118545, Gainesville, FL 32611-8545, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
  3. added 2019-03-19
    Conceptual Analysis, Circularity, and the Commitments of Physicalism.D. Gene Witmer - 2001 - Acta Analytica 16 (26):119-133.
  4. added 2019-03-18
    I'd Love to Be a Naturalist—If Only I Knew What Naturalism Was.Lawrence Sklar - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (5):1121-1137.
  5. added 2019-03-04
    Correction To: Grounding-Based Formulations of Physicalism.Jessica M. Wilson - 2019 - Topoi 38 (1):261-261.
    This correction reflects that I forgot to cite Stephan Leuenberger's unpublished work in the paragraph beginning "More promising, perhaps, is the orthodox view ..." in Section 5. The overall argument of Section 5 is a development of an argument I gave in footnote 27 of 'No Work for a Theory of Grounding' (Inquiry, 2014). At issue in the relevant sections of 'No Work...' and 'Grounding-based Formulations...' is whether a proponent of Grounding has resources to accommodate strongly emergent phenomena, where strong (...)
  6. added 2018-11-27
    Mindmelding: Connected Brains and the Problem of Consciousness.William Hirstein - 2008 - Mens Sana Monographs 6 (1):110-130.
    Contrary to the widely-held view that our conscious states are necessarily private (in that only one person can ever experience them directly), in this paper I argue that it is possible for a person to directly experience the conscious states of another. This possibility removes an obstacle to thinking of conscious states as physical, since their apparent privacy makes them different from all other physical states. A separation can be made in the brain between our conscious mental representations and the (...)
  7. added 2018-11-21
    Without Hierarchy: The Scale Freedom of the Universe.Mariam Thalos - 2013 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    A venerable tradition in the metaphysics of science commends ontological reduction: the practice of analysis of theoretical entities into further and further proper parts, with the understanding that the original entity is nothing but the sum of these. This tradition implicitly subscribes to the principle that all the real action of the universe (also referred to as its "causation") happens at the smallest scales-at the scale of microphysics. A vast majority of metaphysicians and philosophers of science, covering a wide swath (...)
  8. added 2018-09-27
    Grounding-Based Formulations of Physicalism.Jessica M. Wilson - 2016 - Topoi (3):1-18.
    I problematize Grounding-based formulations of physicalism. More specifically, I argue, first, that motivations for adopting a Grounding-based formulation of physicalism are unsound; second, that a Grounding-based formulation lacks illuminating content, and that attempts to imbue Grounding with content by taking it to be a strict partial order are unuseful and problematic ; third, that conceptions of Grounding as constitutively connected to metaphysical explanation conflate metaphysics and epistemology, are ultimately either circular or self-undermining, and controversially assume that physical dependence is incompatible (...)
  9. added 2018-09-27
    Grounding and the Formulation of Physicalism.Andrew Melnyk - 2016 - In Ken Aizawa & Carl Gillett (eds.), Scientific Composition and Metaphysical Ground. Palgrave.
  10. added 2018-09-10
    The Supervenience of Mental Content.Manuel García-Carpintero - 1993 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 94:117.
    The paper discusses the criticism of externalist theories of content which, on the basis of "Twin Earth" considerations, claims that such theories cannot make intentional properties supervenient on basic, intrinsic properties of the organism -- while supervenience is a necessary condition for the causal efficacy of any macro-property. The paper accepts the supervenience requirement, understood as arising from a requirement that macro- properties should be explained by micro- properties. It points out, however, that as a consequence of this, the modality (...)
  11. added 2018-08-16
    Physicalism Deconstructed: Levels of Reality and the Mind–Body Problem.Kevin Morris - 2018 - Cambridge University Press.
    How should thought and consciousness be understood within a view of the world as being through-and-through physical? Many philosophers have proposed non-reductive, levels-based positions, according to which the physical domain is fundamental, while thought and consciousness are higher-level processes, dependent on and determined by physical processes. In this book, Kevin Morris's careful philosophical and historical critique shows that it is very difficult to make good metaphysical sense of this idea - notions like supervenience, physical realization, and grounding all fail to (...)
  12. added 2018-07-18
    Physicalism as an Empirical Hypothesis.David Spurrett - 2017 - Synthese 194 (9):3347-3360.
    Bas van Fraassen claims that materialism involves false consciousness. The thesis that matter is all that there is, he says, fails to rule out any kinds of theories. The false consciousness consists in taking materialism to be cognitive rather than an existential stance, or attitude, of deference to the current content of science in matters of ontology, and a favourable attitude to completeness claims about the content of science at a time. The main argument Van Fraassen provides for saying that (...)
  13. added 2018-07-12
    Empirical Physicalism and the Boundaries of Physics.Michele Paolini Paoletti - 2017 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 31 (4):343-362.
    I shall argue in this article that there are certain objectual and methodological boundaries imposed by the nature of physics that all formulations of physicalism based on physical theories should respect. Therefore, empirical physicalism – i.e., the sort of physicalism that is eager to accept all the entities included in some future, ideal and complete physical theory and all entities dependent on them (see Jeffrey Poland and Janice Dowell) – is already committed to the exclusion of certain sorts of entities (...)
  14. added 2018-06-26
    What's Wrong With Brute Supervenience? A Defense of Horgan on Physicalism and Superdupervenience.Kevin Morris - 2018 - Analytic Philosophy 59 (2):256-280.
    This paper offers a qualified defense of Terry Horgan’s view of brute, inexplicable supervenience theses as physically unacceptable—as having no place in physicalist metaphysics—and his corresponding emphasis on the importance of “superdupervenience”, metaphysical supervenience that can be explained in a “materialistically acceptable” way. I argue, in response to Tom Polger, that it may be possible to ground the physical unacceptability of brute supervenience in its relation physically unacceptable properties supervening on physical properties; moreover, I argue that Horgan’s emphasis on the (...)
  15. added 2018-06-15
    Consciousness and Physicalism:A Defense of a Research Program.Andreas Elpidorou & Guy Dove - 2018 - New York, NY, USA: Routledge.
    Consciousness and Physicalism: A Defense of a Research Program explores the nature of consciousness and its place in the world, offering a revisionist account of what it means to say that consciousness is nothing over and above the physical. By synthesizing work in the philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and philosophy of science from the last twenty years and forging a dialogue with contemporary research in the empirical sciences of the mind, Andreas Elpidorou and Guy Dove advance and defend a novel (...)
  16. added 2018-05-31
    A Properly Physical Russellian Physicalism.Christopher Devlin Brown - 2017 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 24 (11-12):31-50.
    Russellian physicalism has the promise of answering all the typical challenges that non-physicalists have issued against standard versions of physicalism, while not giving up physicalism's commitment to the non-existence of fundamental mentality. However, it has been argued that Russellian physicalism must endorse the existence of physically unacceptable protomental properties in order to address these challenges, which would mean giving up on a core physicalist tenet of keeping the fundamental realm untainted by a special relationship to mentality. Against this, I argue (...)
  17. added 2018-05-30
    Recent Work on Physicalism.Justin Tiehen - forthcoming - Analysis.
    A review of recent work on physicalism, focusing on what it means to say nothing exists over and above the physical, how "the physical" should be defined, and the causal argument for physicalism.
  18. added 2018-05-29
    Minds Within Minds: An Infinite Descent of Mentality in a Physical World.Christopher Brown - 2017 - Erkenntnis 82 (6):1339-1350.
    Physicalism is frequently understood as the thesis that everything depends upon a fundamental physical level. This standard formulation of physicalism has a rarely noted and arguably unacceptable consequence—it makes physicalism come out false in worlds which have no fundamental level, for instance worlds containing things which can infinitely decompose into smaller and smaller parts. If physicalism is false, it should not be for this reason. Thus far, there is only one proposed solution to this problem, and it comes from the (...)
  19. added 2018-05-27
    Fizikalizam.Neven Sesardić - 1984 - Belgrade: Istraživačko-izdavački centar SSO Srbije.
  20. added 2018-05-26
    The Chaology of Mind.Adam Morton - 1988 - Analysis 48 (3):135.
    I explore the possibility that mentality can be characterized as a level in between the functional and the neurological, namely as a physical system exhibiting a specific kind of chaos. The argument is meant to make a case for this kind of characterization rather than giving one in specific detail.
  21. added 2018-03-26
    Review of Kenneth Aizawa and Carl Gillett’s Scientific Composition and Metaphysical Grounding. [REVIEW]Michael Bertrand - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Review of Books:N/A.
  22. added 2018-03-09
    Supervenience Physicalism and the Problem of Extras.D. Gene Witmer - 1999 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 37 (2):315-31.
  23. added 2018-03-08
    Physicalism and the Mind.Robert Francescotti - 2014 - Dordrecht: Springer.
  24. added 2018-02-18
    Two Conceptions of the Physical.Daniel Stoljar - 2001 - Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 62 (2):253-281.
    The debate over physicalism in philosophy of mind can be seen as concerning an inconsistent tetrad of theses: if physicalism is true, a priori physicalism is true; a priori physicalism is false; if physicalism is false, epiphenomenalism is true; epiphenomenalism is false. This paper argues that one may resolve the debate by distinguishing two conceptions of the physical: on the theory-based conception, it is plausible that is true and is false; on the object-based conception, it is plausible that is true (...)
  25. added 2018-02-17
    The Problem of Extras and the Contingency of Physicalism.Robert Francescotti - 2014 - Philosophical Explorations 17 (2):241-254.
    Perhaps all concrete phenomena obtain solely in virtue of physical phenomena. Even so, it seems that the world could have been otherwise. It seems that physicalism, if true, is contingently true. In fact, many believe that the actual truth of physicalism allows metaphysically possible worlds duplicating the actual world in all physical respects while containing immaterial extras, e.g. ghosts, spirits, or Cartesian souls, that no physicalist would believe actually exist. Here I focus on physicalism regarding mentality and argue that the (...)
  26. added 2018-02-17
    Physicalism From a Probabilistic Point of View.Elliott Sober - 1999 - Philosophical Studies 95 (1):135-174.
  27. added 2018-01-25
    What's Wrong with Microphysicalism?Andreas Hüttemann - 2004 - Routledge.
    'Microphysicalism', the view that whole objects behave the way they do in virtue of the behaviour of their constituent parts, is an influential contemporary view with a long philosophical and scientific heritage. In _What's Wrong With Microphysicalism?_ Andreas Hüttemann offers a fresh challenge to this view. Hüttemann agrees with the microphysicalists that we can explain compound systems by explaining their parts, but claims that this does not entail a fundamentalism that gives hegemony to the micro-level. At most, it shows that (...)
  28. added 2018-01-25
    Physicalism and Global Supervenience.Paul K. Moser - 1992 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 30 (1):71-82.
    This paper examines a nonreductive supervenience relation central to a philosophically popular version of nonreductive physicalism inspired by Donald Davidson. The paper argues that this global supervenience relation faces a serious epistemological problem that blocks its being superior to weaker, less general supervenience relations.
  29. added 2017-09-14
    Physicalism, Psychism, and Phenomenalism.Lei Zhong - 2016 - Journal of Philosophy 113 (11):572-590.
    The dominant way to define physical entities is by appeal to ideal physics (as opposed to current physics). However, it has been worried that physicalism understood in terms of ideal physics would be too liberal to rule out “psychism”, the view that mentality exists at the fundamental metaphysical level. In this article, I argue that whereas physicalism is incompatible with some psychist cases, such as the case of “phenomenalism” in which ideal physics adopts mental concepts to denote fundamental entities, physicalism (...)
  30. added 2017-09-13
    Mind, Modality, and Meaning: Toward a Rationalist Physicalism.Gabriel Oak Rabin - 2013 - Dissertation, University of California Los Angeles
    This dissertation contains four independent essays addressing a cluster of related topics in the philosophy of mind. Chapter 1: “Fundamentality Physicalism” argues that physicalism can usefully be conceived of as a thesis about fundamentality. The chapter explores a variety of other potential formulations of physicalism (particularly modal formulations), contrasts fundamentality physicalism with these theses, and offers reasons to prefer fundamentality physicalism over these rivals. Chapter 2:“Modal Rationalism and the Demonstrative Reply to the Master Argument Against Physicalism” introduces the Master Argument (...)
  31. added 2017-06-21
    Introduction: The Character of Physicalism.Andreas Elpidorou - 2018 - Topoi 37 (3):435-455.
    The aim of this editorial introduction is twofold. First, Sects. 1–8 offer a critical introduction to the metaphysical character of physicalism. In those sections, I present and evaluate different ways in which proponents of physicalism have made explicit the metaphysical dependence that is said to hold between the non-physical and the physical. Some of these accounts are found to be problematic; others are shown to be somewhat more promising. In the end, some important lessons are drawn and different options for (...)
  32. added 2017-03-14
    Worlds 3 Popper 0. [REVIEW]Ray Scott Percival - 1995 - New Scientist (19th May).
    THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM: A GUIDE TO THE CURRENT DEBATE (EDITED BY RICHARD WARNER AND TA D E U S Z SZUBKA) contains recent essays by the key players in the the field of the Mind-Body problem: Searle, Fodor, Problem Honderich, Nagel, McGinn, Stich, Rorty and others. But there are a few interesting exceptions, for example Edelman, Popper, Putnam and Dennett. Nevertheless, these thinkers do get a mention here and there, and nearly all the exciting topical issues are dealt with, including (...)
  33. added 2017-02-15
    A Physicalistic Account of Emergentism.Nicholas Schroeder - 2015 - Axiomathes 25 (4):479-494.
    Jaegwon Kim’s argument against non-reductive physicalism is well known. Many philosophers take Kim’s argument to also apply to emergentism. But this does not necessarily follow. In this paper, I will first briefly show why Kim’s argument against non-reductive physicalism need not apply to emergentism. Next, I will present a physicalistic account of emergentism offered by Jason Megill in his paper “A Defense of Emergence.” This will be followed by an examination of some of the limitations of Megill’s account, in particular, (...)
  34. added 2017-02-15
    Carnap’s Aufbau and Physicalism: What Does the “Mutual Reducibility” of Psychological and Physical Objects Amount To?Thomas Uebel - 2014 - Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook 17:45-56.
    The present paper is part of a larger project of investigating how far puzzling questions about Carnap’s philosophical deflationism – as expressed most prominently in “Empricism, Semantics and Ontology”1 – can be answered by reference to his own preferred position in areas upon which this meta-philosophical position can be expected to have a bearing. For that project the explorations below provide a starting point; on the present occasion they will, I hope, be found to be of independent interest. At issue (...)
  35. added 2017-02-15
    Truth, Physicalism, and Ultimate Theory.Steven J. Wagner - 1996 - In Howard Robinson (ed.), Objections to Physicalism. Clarendon Press.
  36. added 2017-02-15
    Postscript to "There is No Question of Physicalism".Tim Crane & D. H. Mellor - 1995 - In P. Moser & J. D. Trout (eds.), Contemporary Materialism: a Reader. Routledge. pp. 85-89.
  37. added 2017-02-14
    Physical Sciences.Robert P. Crease - 2010 - In Julie Thompson Klein & Carl Mitcham (eds.), Annals of Science. Oxford University Press. pp. 79.
  38. added 2017-02-13
    Reduction and Emergence in Science and Philosophy.Carl Gillett - 2016 - Cambridge University Press.
    Grand debates over reduction and emergence are playing out across the sciences, but these debates have reached a stalemate, with both sides declaring victory on empirical grounds. In this book, Carl Gillett provides new theoretical frameworks with which to understand these debates, illuminating both the novel positions of scientific reductionists and emergentists and the recent empirical advances that drive these new views. Gillett also highlights the flaws in existing philosophical frameworks and reorients the discussion to reflect the new scientific advances (...)
  39. added 2017-02-13
    11 Physicalism and the Indeterminacy of Translation.Michael Friedman - 1995 - In Paul K. Moser & J. D. Trout (eds.), Contemporary Materialism: A Reader. Routledge. pp. 209.
  40. added 2017-02-12
    Without Hierarchy: The Scale Freedom of the Universe By Mariam Thalos.George Botterill - 2014 - Analysis 74 (3):556-558.
  41. added 2017-02-11
    Why Physics Alone Cannot Define the 'Physical'.Seth Crook - 2001 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (3):333-359.
  42. added 2017-02-11
    On Crane and Mellor's Argument Against Physicalism.Don Robinson - 1991 - Mind 100 (1):135 - 136.
  43. added 2017-02-10
    Empiricism and Physicalism.B. V. Juhos - 1935 - Analysis 2 (6):81-92.
  44. added 2017-02-09
    Physicalism and Strict Implication.Jürgen Schröder - 2006 - Synthese 151 (3):537 - 545.
    The aim of this paper is to determine the plausibility of Robert Kirk's strict implication thesis as an explication of physicalism and its relation to Jackson and Chalmer's notion of application conditionals, to the notion of global supervenience and to a posteriori identities. It is argued that the strict implication thesis is subject to the same objection that affects the notion of global supervenience. Furthermore, reference to an idealised physics in the formulation of strict implication threatens to make the thesis (...)
  45. added 2017-02-09
    Physicalism.Anne C. Stubbs - 1980 - Philosophical Studies 27:258-263.
  46. added 2017-02-08
    Physicalism and the Bogey of Determinism.Aaron Sloman - unknown
    This paper rehearses some relatively old arguments about how any coherent notion of free will is not only compatible with but depends on determinism. However the mind-brain identity theory is attacked on the grounds that what makes a physical event an intended action A is that the agent interprets the physical phenomena as doing A. The paper should have referred to the monograph Intention by Elizabeth Anscombe, which discusses in detail the fact that the same physical event can have multiple (...)
  47. added 2017-02-08
    Physicalism and Panentheism.Carl Gillett - 2003 - Faith and Philosophy 20 (1):3-23.
  48. added 2017-02-08
    Physicalism and Classical Theism.Peter Forrest - 1996 - Faith and Philosophy 13 (2):179-200.
    In this paper I compare two versions of non-eliminative physicalism (reductive physicalism and supervenience physicalism) with four of the five theses of classical theism: divine non-contingency, divine transcendence, divine simplicity, and the aseity thesis. I argue that:1. Both physicalism (either version) and classical theism require intuition-transcending identifications of some properties or possibilities.2. Among other identifications, both reductive physicalism and classical theism need to identify psychological with functional properties.3. Both reductive physicalism and classical theism have a problem with consciousness.4. Both reductive (...)
  49. added 2017-02-08
    Post-Physicalism and Beyond.D. Vaden House & Marvin J. McDonald - 1992 - Dialogue 31 (4):593-.
  50. added 2017-02-08
    Dr. Von Juhos and Physicalism.Justus Buchler - 1935 - Analysis 3 (6):88 - 92.
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