From physics to physicalism
In Carl Gillett & Barry M. Loewer (eds.), Physicalism and its Discontents. Cambridge University Press (2001)
The appeal of materialism lies precisely in this, in its claim to be natural metaphysics within the bounds of science. That a doctrine which promises to gratify our ambition (to know the noumenal) and our caution (not to be unscientific) should have great appeal is hardly something to be wondered at. (Putnam (1983), p.210) Materialism says that all facts, in particular all mental facts, obtain in virtue of the spatio- temporal distribution, and properties, of matter. It was, as Putnam says, “metaphysics within the bounds of science”, but only so long as science was thought to say that the world is made out of matter.1 In this century physicists have learned that there is more in the world than matter and, in any case, matter isn’t quite what it seemed to be. For this reason many philosophers who think that metaphysics should be informed by science advocate physicalism in place of materialism. Physicalism claims that all facts obtain in virtue of the distribution of the fundamental entities and properties –whatever they turn out to be- of completed fundamental physics. Later I will discuss a more precise formulation. But not all contemporary philosophers embrace physicalism. Some- and though a minority not a small or un-influential one- think that physicalism is rather the metaphysics for an unjustified scientism; i.e. it is scientistic metaphysics. Those among them that think that physicalism can be clearly formulated think that it characterizes a
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