On characterizing the physical

Philosophical Studies 131 (1):61-99 (2006)
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Abstract

How should physical entities be characterized? Physicalists, who have most to do with the notion, usually characterize the physical by reference to two components: 1. The physical entities are the entities treated by fundamental physics with the proviso that 2. Physical entities are not fundamentally mental (that is, do not individually possess or bestow mentality) Here I explore the extent to which the appeals to fundamental physics and to the NFM (“no fundamental mentality”) constraint are appropriate for characterizing the physical, especially for purposes of formulating physicalism. Ultimately, I motivate and defend a version of an account incorporating both components: The physics-based NFM account: An entity existing at a world w is physical iff (i) it is treated, approximately accurately, by current or future (in the limit of inquiry, ideal) versions of fundamental physics at w, and (ii) it is not fundamentally mental (that is, does not individually either possess or bestow mentality).

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Jessica M. Wilson
University of Toronto at Scarborough

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