A Physicalist Manifesto is a full treatment of the comprehensive physicalist view that, in some important sense, everything is physical. Andrew Melnyk argues that the view is best formulated by appeal to a carefully worked-out notion of realization, rather than supervenience; that, so formulated, physicalism must be importantly reductionist; that it need not repudiate causal and explanatory claims framed in non-physical language; and that it has the a posteriori epistemic status of a broad-scope scientific hypothesis. Two concluding chapters argue in (...) detail that contemporary science provides no significant empirical evidence against physicalism and some considerable evidence for it. Written in a brisk, candid and exceptionally clear style, this 2003 book should appeal to professionals and students in philosophy of mind, metaphysics and philosophy of science. (shrink)
Twenty years ago, Richard Boyd suggested that physicalism could be formulated by appeal to a notion of realization, with no appeal to the identity of the non-physical with the physical. In (Melnyk 2003), I developed this suggestion at length, on the basis of one particular account of realization. I now ask what happens if you try to formulate physicalism on the basis of other accounts of realization, accounts due to LePore and Loewer and to Shoemaker. Having explored two new formulations (...) of physicalism, I conclude that my 2003 formulation remains the most promising. (shrink)
This paper introduces the term "Hempel's Dilemma" to refer to the following challenge to any formulation of physicalism that appeals to the content of physics: if physical properties are those mentioned as such in current physics, then physicalism is probably false; but if they are those mentioned as such in a completed physics, then, since we have no idea what completed physics will look like, the resulting formulation of physicalism will lack content that is determinable by us now. It shows (...) how the first horn of Hempel's Dilemma can be avoided. The key is an account of what is required for the acceptance of physicalism according to which to accept physicalism does not require assigning to physicalism a high probability, merely a higher probability than is assigned to any of its relevant rivals. This account of acceptance is shown to satisfy all the intuitive demands of the scientific realist, so that to be a physicalist is simply to be a scientific realist regarding physicalism. (shrink)
Can physicalism (or materialism) be non-reductive? I provide an opinionated survey of the debate on this question. I suggest that attempts to formulate non-reductive physicalism by appeal to claims of event identity, supervenience, or realization have produced doctrines that fail either to be physicalist or to be non-reductive. Then I treat in more detail a recent attempt to formulate non-reductive physicalism by Derk Pereboom, but argue that it fares no better.
Twenty years ago, Richard Boyd suggested that physicalism could be formulated by appeal to a notion of realization, with no appeal to the identity of the non-physical with the physical. In, I developed this suggestion at length, on the basis of one particular account of realization. I now ask what happens if you try to formulate physicalism on the basis of other accounts of realization, accounts due to LePore and Loewer and to Shoemaker. Having explored two new formulations of physicalism, (...) I conclude that my 2003 formulation remains the most promising. (shrink)
This is a critical, but sympathetic, examination of the manifesto for naturalized metaphysics that forms the first chapter of James Ladyman and Don Ross's 2006 book, Every Thing Must Go, but it has wider implications than this description suggests.
I argue that a certain version of physicalism, which is viewed by both its admirers and its detractors as non-reductionist, in fact entails two claims which, though not reductionist in the currently most popular sense of 'reductionist', conform to the spirit of reductionism sufficiently closely to compromise its claim to be a comprehensively non-reductionist version of physicalism. Putatively non-reductionist versions of physicalism in general, I suggest, are likely to be non-reductionist only in some senses, but not in others, and hence (...) to disappoint those who wish to be physicalists but still to remain soft and cuddly non-reductionists. (shrink)
Derk Pereboom has recently elaborated a formulation of non-reductive physicalism in which supervenience does not play the central role and realization plays no role at all; he calls his formulation “robust non-reductive physicalism”. This paper argues that for several reasons robust non-reductive physicalism is inadequate as a formulation of physicalism: it can only rule out fundamental laws of physical-to-mental emergence by stipulating that there are no such laws; it fails to entail the supervenience of the mental on the physical; it (...) appeals to two relations that are physicalistically unacceptable; and it rules out certain epistemically possible ways that the world might turn out to be according to current physics. This paper further argues that the difficulties faced by Pereboom’s robust non-reductive physicalism can all be avoided if physicalism is instead formulated by appeal to a carefully-defined relation of realization. (shrink)
In earlier work, I proposed and defended a formulation of physicalism that was distinctive in appealing to a carefully-defined relation of physical realization. Various philosophers have since presented challenges to this formulation. In the present paper, I aim to show that these challenges can be overcome.
This paper argues against both conceptual and linguistic analysis as sources of a priori knowledge. The key claim is that none of the main views about what concepts are can underwrite the possibility of such knowledge.
Robert Pargetter has argued that we know other minds through an inference to the best explanation. My aim is to show, by criticising Pargetter's account, that this approach to the problem of other minds cannot, as it stands, deliver the goods; it might be part of the right response to the problem, but it cannot be the whole story. More precisely, I will claim that Pargetter does not successfully reconstruct how ordinary people in everyday life come reasonably to believe in (...) other minds, given only the gross behavioural evidence actually available to them. I will suggest, contrary to both Pargetter in particular and this approach in general, that reference to one's own case does, after all, play an indispensable evidential role in the justification of belief in other minds, something which obviously marks an important disanalogy between the case of other minds and that of such theoretical entities as electrons. (shrink)
Materialism is nearly universally assumed by cognitive scientists. Intuitively, materialism says that a person’s mental states are nothing over and above his or her material states, while dualism denies this. Philosophers have introduced concepts (e.g., realization, supervenience) to assist in formulating the theses of materialism and dualism with more precision, and distinguished among importantly different versions of each view (e.g., eliminative materialism, substance dualism, emergentism). They have also clarified the logic of arguments that use empirical findings to support materialism. Finally, (...) they have devised various objections to materialism, objections that therefore serve also as arguments for dualism. These objections typically center around two features of mental states that materialism has had trouble in accommodating. The first feature is intentionality, the property of representing, or being about, objects, properties, and states of affairs external to the mental states. The second feature is phenomenal consciousness, the property possessed by many mental states of there being something it is like for the subject of the mental state to be in that mental state. (shrink)
Discussion of Searle's case against strong AI has usually focused upon his Chinese Room thought-experiment. In this paper, however, I expound and then try to refute what I call his abstract argument against strong AI, an argument which turns upon quite general considerations concerning programs, syntax, and semantics, and which seems not to depend on intuitions about the Chinese Room. I claim that this argument fails, since it assumes one particular account of what a program is. I suggest an alternative (...) account which, however, cannot play a role in a Searle-type argument, and argue that Searle gives no good reason for favoring his account, which allows the abstract argument to work, over the alternative, which doesn't. This response to Searle's abstract argument also, incidentally, enables the Robot Reply to the Chinese Room to defend itself against objections Searle makes to it. (shrink)
This paper concerns Sydney Shoemaker's view, presented in his book, Physical Realization (Oxford University Press, 2007), of how mental properties are realized by physical properties. That view aims to avoid the "too many minds" problem to which he seems to be led by his further view that human persons are not token-identical with their bodies. The paper interprets and criticizes Shoemaker's view.
Supervenience physicalism holds that all facts, of whatever type, globally supervene upon the physical facts, even though neither type-type nor token-token nonphysical-physical identities hold. I argue that, invoked like this, supervenience is metaphysically mysterious, needing explanation. I reject two explanations (Lewis and Forrest). I argue that the best explanation of the appearance of supervenience is an error-theoretic, projectivist one: there are no nonphysical properties, but we erroneously project such onto the physical world in a systematic way, yielding the appearance of (...) supervenience. (shrink)
This is a critical study of Sydney Shoemaker's, Physical Realization (Oxford University Press, 2007). It focuses on (i) the relationship between his subset theory of realization and the higher-order property theory of realization, and (ii) his attempt to solve the problem of mental causation.
I develop the conjecture that “naturalism” in philosophy names not a thesis but a paradigm in something like Thomas Kuhn’s sense, i.e., a set of commitments, shared by a group of investigators, whose acceptance by the members of the group powerfully influences their day-to-day investigative practice. I take a stab at spelling out the shared commitments that make up naturalism, and the logical and evidential relations among them.
Substantial review of Michael Rea's, World without design: the ontological consequences of naturalism. It is an improved version of my paper, "Rea On Naturalism" in Philo, 2004, revised in light of Rea's comments on the earlier paper. The discussion focuses on Rea’s case for three of his theses: that naturalism must be viewed as a ‘research programme’; that naturalism ‘cannot be adopted on the basis of evidence’, as he puts it; and that naturalists cannot be justified in accepting realism about (...) material objects. (shrink)
My goal in this paper is to provide critical discussion of Michael Rea’s case for three of the controversial theses defended in his World Without Design (Oxford University Press, 2002): (1) that naturalism must be viewed as what he calls a “research program”; (2) that naturalism “cannot be adopted on the basis of evidence,” as he puts it; and (3) that naturalists cannot be justified in accepting realism about material objects.
This paper aims to show that David Chalmers' conceivability argument against physicalism, as presented in his 1996 book, The Conscious Mind, is inconclusive. The key point is that, while the argument seems to assume that someone competent with a given concept thereby has access to the primary intension of the concept, there are physicalist-friendly views of conceptual competence which imply that this assumption is not true.
Two ways are considered of formulating a version of retentive physicalism, the view that in some important sense everything is physical, even though there do exist properties, e.g. higher-level scientific ones, which cannot be type-identified with physical properties. The first way makes use of disjunction, but is rejected on the grounds that the results yield claims that are either false or insufficiently materialist. The second way, realisation physicalism, appeals to the correlative notions of a functional property and its realisation, and (...) states, roughly, that any actual property whatsoever is either itself a physical property or else is, ultimately, realised by instances of physical properties. Realisation physicalism is distinctive since it makes no claims of identity whatsoever, and involves no appeal to the dubious concept of supervenience. After an attempt to formulate realisation physicalism more precisely, I explore a way in which, in principle, we could obtain evidence of its truth. (shrink)
This is a critical notice of Timothy Williamson's, The Philosophy of Philosophy (Blackwell, 2007). It focuses on criticizing the book's two main positive proposals: that we should “replace true belief by knowledge in a principle of charity constitutive of content”, and that “the epistemology of metaphysically modal thinking is tantamount to a special case of the epistemology of counterfactual thinking”.
In this paper I pour a little cold water on claims of global supervenience, not by arguing that they are false, and not by arguing that they possess no philosophical utility whatsoever, but by building a case for the following conditional conclusion: if you expect claims of global supervenience to play a certain role in a certain metaphysical project, then you will be disappointed, since they cannot play such a role. The metaphysical project is to give an illuminating and suitably (...) physicalist account of the relations between properties instantiated at different levels of reality. The paper makes a prima facie case for holding that claims of global supervenience can provide no illumination in such an account, a case that emerges when the metaphysics of global supervenience is probed a little more deeply than is customary. (shrink)
If physicalism is true (e.g., if every event is a fundamental-physical event), then it looks as if there is a fundamental-physical explanation of everything. If so, then what is to become of special scientific explanations? They seem to be excluded by the fundamental-physical ones, and indeed to be excellent candidates for elimination. I argue that, if physicalism is true, there probably is a fundamental-physical explanation of everything, but that nevertheless there can perfectly well be special scientific explanations as well, notwithstanding (...) eliminativist scruples concerning overdetermination and Ockham's Razor. (shrink)
This is a review of Galen Strawson's Real Materialism And Other Essays. It focuses on reconstructing and criticizing his "realistic materialism", a view that many philosophers will regard as a form of panpsychism.
The first of three contributions to an e-book in which I debated Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro on the question whether the human mind is material. I said that it is, and they said that it isn't. The article is meant to be intelligible to an educated general audience. In this first contribution, I present a simplified version of the argument for physicalism based on the neural dependence of mental phenomena.
The third of three contributions to an e-book in which I debated Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro on the question whether the human mind is material. I said that it is, and they said that it isn't. The article is meant to be intelligible to an educated general audience. In this third contribution, I reply to the claim of Goetz and Taliaferro that naturalism (i.e., anti-supernaturalism) cannot accommodate free choices and conscious experience.
This article's goal is to outline one approach to providing a principled answer to the question of what is the proper relationship between philosophy and the study of philosophy's history, a question arising, for example, in the design of a curriculum for graduate students. This approach requires empirical investigation of philosophizing past and present, and thus takes philosophy as an object of study in something like the way that contemporary (naturalistic) philosophy of science takes science as an object of study. (...) This approach also requires articulating a sense in which philosophy might make, or might have made, progress. (shrink)
This is a review of Jaegwon Kim's Physicalism, Or Something Near Enough. It focuses on his claim that mental properties can be causally efficacious only if they are, in a certain sense, functionally reducible to the physical and his criticisms of best-explanation arguments for physicalism as advocated by, e.g., Christopher Hill and Brian McLaughlin.
Any philosopher sympathetic to physicaIism (or materiaIism) will allow that there is some sense in which ordinary objects---tables and chairs, etc.---are physicaI. But what sense, exactly? John Post holds a view implying that every ordinary object is identical with some or other spatio-temporal sum of fundamental entities. I begin by deploying a modal argument intended to show that ordinary objects, for example elephants, are not identical with spatio-temporal sums of such entities. Then I claim that appeal to David Lewis’s counterpart (...) theory, even if acceptable in principle, would not permit Post to make a plausible reply to this argument. Finally, I sketch an alternative account of ordinary objects, which does not require identity with spatio-temporal sums of fundamental physical entities, and argue that, despite Post’s protestations, this account is acceptably physicalist: his identity claims are not required for physicalism. (shrink)
Using the notion of strict implication, Robert Kirk claims to have formulated a version of physicalism which is nonreductive. I argue that, depending on how his notion of strict implication is interpreted, Kirk's formulation either fails to be physicalist or else commits him to reductionism. Either way we do not have nonreductive physicalism. I also suggest that the reductionism to which Kirk is committed, though unfashionable, is unobjectionable.
Positive rights are, roughly, rights that one be provided with certain things; and so they entail obligations on others, not merely to refrain from interfering with the bearer of the rights, but to see to it that one gets whatever one has the rights to. An example of a positive right would be the right to a welfare minimum; the right, that is, to resources sufficient to satisfy basic physical needs. In this paper I criticise a couple of recent attempts (...) (by Den Uyl and Machan, and by M. Levin) to show that alleged positive rights fail a purely formal test of universality and can thus be disqualified for that reason alone. (shrink)
The second of three contributions to an e-book in which I debated Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro on the question whether the human mind is material. I said that it is, and they said that it isn't. The article is meant to be intelligible to an educated general audience. In this second contribution, I criticize the appeals to introspection that Goetz and Taliaferro make to support their dualism.
Any philosopher sympathetic to physicaIism will allow that there is some sense in which ordinary objects---tables and chairs, etc.---are physicaI. But what sense, exactly? John Post holds a view implying that every ordinary object is identical with some or other spatio-temporal sum of fundamental entities. I begin by deploying a modal argument intended to show that ordinary objects, for example elephants, are not identical with spatio-temporal sums of such entities. Then I claim that appeal to David Lewis’s counterpart theory, even (...) if acceptable in principle, would not permit Post to make a plausible reply to this argument. Finally, I sketch an alternative account of ordinary objects, which does not require identity with spatio-temporal sums of fundamental physical entities, and argue that, despite Post’s protestations, this account is acceptably physicalist: his identity claims are not required for physicalism. (shrink)
When a belief is cited as part of the explanation of an agent’s behaviour, it seems that the belief is explanatorily relevant in virtue of its content. In his Explaining Behavior, Dretske presents an account of belief, content, and explanation according to which this can be so. I supply some examples of beliefs whose explanatory relevance in virtue of content apparently cannot be accounted for in the Dretskean way. After considering some possible responses to this challenge, I end by discussing (...) how serious these counterexamples are for Dretske’s account. (shrink)