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.
This paper argues against both conceptual and linguistic analysis as sources of a priori knowledge. Whether such knowledge is possible turns on the nature of concepts. The paper's chief contention is that none of the main views about what concepts are can underwrite the possibility of such knowledge.
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)
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.
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 (Robert Francescotti, Daniel Stoljar, Carl Gillett, and Susan Schneider) have since presented challenges to this formulation. In the present paper, I aim to show that these challenges can be overcome.
Grounding is all the rage in analytical metaphysics. But here I give three reasons for not appealing to a primitive relation of grounding in formulating physicalism. (1) It probably can't do the key job it would need to do. (2) We don't need it, since we already have realization. (3) It is probably not even consistent with physicalism.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
A critical study of Rea's book, focusing on his case for three theses: that naturalism must be viewed as a ‘research programme’; that naturalism ‘cannot be adopted on the basis of evidence’; and that naturalists cannot be justified in accepting realism about material objects.
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 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.
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.
This paper is guided by, and begins to make plausible, the idea that there can be a naturalistic metaphilosophy, i.e., an inquiry that 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. The paper’s more specific goal is to ventilate certain provocative speculations concerning the character of philosophy’s cognitive achievement, especially over time. But this more specific goal will be approached indirectly, through addressing in (...) a preliminary way the question what the proper relationship is between philosophy and the study of philosophy’s history. (shrink)
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.
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.
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)
This critical study aims mainly to do two things: (i) throw some cold water on the claim that supervenience can be used to formulate a doctrine of non-reductive physicalism, and (ii) rebut an argument for physicalism offered (separately) by David Papineau and Barry Loewer. -/- The title alludes to the following lyric from "Mary Poppins", and was intended to hint that there is less to supervenience than meets the eye: -/- It's supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Even though the sound of it is something (...) quite atrocious If you say it loud enough, you'll always sound precocious Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. (shrink)
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.
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)
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)
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.
The subject of this thesis is physicalism, understood not as some particular doctrine pertaining narrowly to the philosophy of mind, but rather as a quite general metaphysical claim to the effect that everything is, or is fundamentally, physical. Thus physicalism explicates the thought that in some sense physics is the basic science. The aim of the thesis is to defend a particular brand of physicalism, which I call eliminative type physicalism. It claims, roughly, that every property is a physical property, (...) a property mentioned in the laws of physics, and hence that any putative property not identifiable with a physical property must be eliminated from our ontology. Eliminative type physicalism is apt to face three objections, and so my thesis, like Caesar's Gaul, falls into three parts. In the first, I argue against the idea that there are tenable positions, both physicalist and non-physicalist, alternative to eliminative type physicalism. I argue that each of these positions token physicalism (Fodor, middle Putnam), supervenience physicalism (Lewis, Horgan) and and a non-physicalist view I call pluralism (Goodman, late Putnam) is defective. In the second part, responding to the objection that there is just no reason to be a physicalist, I develop a positive argument for eliminative type physicalism, an argument resting upon a strong version of the explanatory test for reality according to which only explanatorily indispensable properties can justifiably be said to exist. In the third and final part, I argue, against the charge that eliminative type physicalism cannot accommodate what I call phenomenal properties (qualia, raw feels etc.), that there is no good reason to deny, and one good reason to affirm, that phenomenal properties just are physical properties. (shrink)
In this exceptionally lucid book, Goldman deploys an enviable knowledge of the cognitive science literature in order to make a sustained but highly readable case for the conclusion that findings in cognitive science are relevant to resolving a wide range of philosophical problems. He does not hold that cognitive science can replace philosophy; nor, except perhaps briefly in his chapter on philosophy of mind, does he consider cognitive science as an object of philosophical analysis.
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 (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)
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)
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.
Gillett's goal is to articulate and defend a view of the nature of thought that opposes the widely-accepted view that thoughts are internal states whose representational content is owed to causal connections with the environment, and whose interactions play a part in the causation of behavior. According to Gillett, discourse about human mental activity is not about goings-on in an inner realm of causal representational states". What is it about, then? Gillett's alternative view rests entirely upon an account of the (...) nature of concepts. "To grasp a concept is to master a principled way of responding to the world involving techniques of selected attention and directed search for criterial information which reveals whether a presentation instances the concept in question". Two features of Gillett's account deserve emphasis. First, it turns out that responding to the world in "a principled way" is not merely a matter of responding to it in a de facto rule-governed way: "In using a concept, a thinker does not merely respond but can represent to himself the fact that a norm governs that response and is independent of it". Second, the responses to the world which concept-mastery requires are meant to be public responses, apparently taking the form of judgements expressed in a natural language. (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.
This is a review of Jaegwon Kim's Physicalism, Or Something Near Enough. It focuses (i) on his claim that mental properties can be causally efficacious only if they are, in a certain sense, functionally reducible to the physical, and (ii) on his criticisms of best-explanation arguments for physicalism as advocated by, e.g., Christopher Hill and Brian McLaughlin.
Though there is much else in Levine's book that is also worthy of discussion, this critical study focuses exclusively on his central positive thesis that phenomenal consciousness exhibits two features that “both resist explanatory reduction to the physical: subjectivity and qualitative character” (p. 175).
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)