Physicalism, Emergentism, and Fundamental Forces

Dissertation, Cornell University (2001)
Physicalism is the thesis that all entities are nothing over and above physical entities. Here I investigate into whether and how physicalism might be formulated so as to substantively contrast with its best traditional rivals---including and especially emergentism. Formulating physicalism requires making sense of both the physical/non-physical distinction and the nothing/something over and above distinction. It has been argued that no distinction between the physical and the non-physical exists, that can serve as the basis for a sub stantive physicalism. But such arguments miss the mark, for participants to the physicalism debates do not disagree about the boundary of the physical, which, while roughly drawn is clear enough for debate to proceed. Rather, participants disagree on whether there are any entities over and above those entities they agree are physical. Hence the viability of physicalism primarily depends on the over and above distinction. ;I argue that existing accounts of over and aboveness are inadequate, for the key class of cases where two properties are instanced in a single subject, and one property is supposed to necessitate the other, with at least nomological necessity. I go on to provide an adequate account of over and aboveness, by reference to the notion of a fundamental force . We can formulate physicalism and emergentism using Force-relative Over and Aboveness: according to physicalism, all causal powers bestowed by all properties are grounded only in fundamental physical forces; according to emergentism, some causal powers are grounded in a new fundamental force, different from any physical force. ;Understanding over and aboveness as involving fundamental forces is not new. But arguments against forces have lately been accepted; hence the notable absence of forces from contemporary philosophizing. I distinguish two uses of 'force', and show that these arguments do not tell against fundamental forces. I then give positive arguments for admitting fundamental forces, stemming from the reasonable hypothesis that fundamental forces are collections of interacting fields. Forces, so understood, are ontologically defensible; and thus can serve as the needed basis for formulating physicalism and emergentism
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 26,692
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Replies to Papers.Terry Horgan - 2002 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 63 (1):302-340.
Causal Emergentism.Olga Markič - 2004 - Acta Analytica 19 (33):65-81.
Emergentism and Supervenience Physicalism.Robert J. Howell - 2009 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (1):83 – 98.
Could a Classical Theist Be a Physicalist?William F. Vallicella - 1998 - Faith and Philosophy 15 (2):160-180.
Emergence: Core Ideas and Issues.Jaegwon Kim - 2006 - Synthese 151 (3):547-559.
Physicalism, Supervenience and the Fundamental Level.Robin Brown & James Ladyman - 2009 - Philosophical Quarterly 59 (234):20-38.
The Significance of Emergence.Tim Crane - 2001 - In Carl Gillett & Barry M. Loewer (eds.), Physicalism and its Discontents. Cambridge University Press.

Monthly downloads

Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

Added to index


Total downloads


Recent downloads (6 months)


How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums