Rae Langton and David Lewis have proposed an account of "intrinsic property" that makes use of two notions: being independent of accompaniment and being natural. We find the appeal to the first of these promising; the second notion, however, we find mystifying. In this paper we argue that the appeal to naturalness is not acceptable and offer an alternative definition of intrinsicality. The alternative definition makes crucial use of a notion commonly used by philosophers, namely, the notion of one property (...) being had in virtue of another property. We defend our account against three arguments for thinking that this "in virtue of" notion is unacceptable in this context. We also take a look at a variety of cases in which the definition might be applied and defend it against potential counterexamples. The upshot, we think, is a modest but adequate account of what we understand by "intrinsic property.". (shrink)
What has come to be known as “a priori physicalism” is the thesis, roughly, that the non-physical truths in the actual world can be deduced a priori from a complete physical description of the actual world. To many contemporary philosophers, a priori physicalism seems extremely implausible. In this paper I distinguish two kinds of a priori physicalism. One sort – strict a priori physicalism – I reject as both unmotivated and implausible. The other sort – liberal a priori physicalism – (...) I argue is both motivated and plausible. This variety of a priori physicalism insists that the necessitation of non-physical truths by the physical facts must be underwritten in a certain fashion by a priori knowledge, but the a priori knowledge need not amount to a simple deduction of the non-physical truths from a complete physical description of the world. Further, this sort of liberal a priori physicalism has the advantage that it offers hope for a genuinely satisfying account of how the physical facts manage to necessitate the facts about phenomenal consciousness – thereby in effect solving the “hard problem” of consciousness. The first half of the paper sets out the motivation for liberal a priori physicalism and its superiority to the strict version; the second half presents one strategy available to the liberal a priori physicalist for showing how consciousness can be accommodated in a purely physical world. (shrink)
Physicalists motivate their position by posing a problem for the opposition: given the causal completeness of physics and the impact of the mental (or, more broadly, the seemingly nonphysical) on the physical, antiphysicalism implies that causal overdetermination is rampant. This argument is, however, equivocal in its use of 'physical'. As Scott Sturgeon has recently argued, if 'physical' means that which is the object of physical theory, completeness is plausible, but the further claim that the mental has a causal impact on (...) the physical is no longer so evident. In this paper I assess the damage due to the ambiguity of 'physical' and provide a repair to the overdetermination strategy. (shrink)
Stalking the elusive physicalist thesis Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-5 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9528-2 Authors D. Gene Witmer, Department of Philosophy, University of Florida, P. O. Box 118545, Gainesville, FL 32611-8545, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
How should the “physical” in “physicalism” be understood? I here set out systematic criteria of adequacy, propose an account, and show how the account meets those criteria. The criteria of adequacy focus on the idea of rational management: to vindicate philosophical practice, the account must make it plausible that we can assess various questions about physicalism. The account on offer is dubbed the “Ideal Naturalist Physics” account, according to which the physical is that which appears in an ideal theory that (...) both meets the explanatory goals of physics and is naturalist in a sense to be explained. The combination of these two provides a satisfying account of the physical that meets the criteria of adequacy and can be used to predict puzzle cases as well. (shrink)
In his 'The Disorder of Things' John Dupré presents an objection to reductionism which I call the 'anti-essentialist objection': it is that reductionism requires essentialism, and essentialism is false. I unpack the objection and assess its cogency. Once the objection is clearly in view, it is likely to appeal to those who think conceptual analysis a bankrupt project. I offer on behalf of the reductionist two strategies for responding, one which seeks to rehabilitate conceptual analysis and one (more concessive) which (...) avoids commitment to any such analysis. (shrink)
The manifestability argument presented by Papineau and Loewer turns on the premise that nonphysical properties are capable of making a difference to physical conditions. From this and the completeness of physics a strenuous supervenience conclusion is supposed to follow. I argue that the plausible version of this premise implies a weaker supervenience thesis only, one that is too weak to be of any use for a physicalist. There is a more contentious premise one might use to deduce the needed conclusion, (...) but that more contentious premise has no empirical support. (shrink)
Conceptual analysis is currently out of favour, especially in North America. This is partly through misunderstanding of its nature. Properly understood, conceptual analysis is not a mysterious activity discredited by Quine that seeks after the a priori in some hard‐to‐understand sense. It is, rather, something familiar to everyone, philosophers and non‐philosophers alike—or so I argue. Another reason for its unpopularity is a failure to appreciate the need for conceptual analysis. The cost of repudiating it has not been sufficiently appreciated; without (...) it, we cannot address a whole raft of important questions. (shrink)
A substantial guide providing an overview of both physicalism and metaphysical naturalism, reviewing both questions of formulation and justification for both doctrines. Includes a diagnostic strategy for understanding talk of naturalism as a metaphysical thesis.
Charles Siewert has given us an ingenious thought experiment involving a limited lack of conscious experience. The possibility of the described case is incompatible with a number of popular theories of consciousness. Siewert acknowledges, however, that this possibility is not a direct threat to "hidden feature" theories. I aim to do two things: first, strengthen his defense of the claim that the case is genuinely possible by considering and rejecting some further attempts to explain away our temptation to believe it (...) possible; and second, to explore how a hidden feature approach could be developed and made plausible. (shrink)
The title of my address is inspired by an experience I have found to be common among philosophers. I have in the mind the following process. At the start of a project, the issue at hand seems compelling and you hope to have something significant to say about it. If all goes well, you find ways of mapping out the terrain that make it easier and easier to see what to say. And as you near the end of the process, (...) your energy flags, as the points you make begin to seem too obvious for anyone ever to give a damn about it. With success comes a kind of boredom.In this address, I pursue the idea that much of philosophy is driven by the desire to render everything boring in this way. While the address is designed to be playful, the substance is meant seriously: there is an important sense in which one powerful philosophical impulse may be usefully characterized as the drive towards disenchantment, to render things unperplexing in a manageable fashion. I suggest that philosophers are motivated by their intolerance for things that defy cognitive mastery, and that this drive illuminates various aspects of the culture of contemporary analytic philosophy, including the experience described above that inspired the talk. I address some apparent counter-tendencies and suggest how they may be reconciled with that primary drive. At the end, I stress that we should not disown but rather take pride in our desire to take the magic out of things, that we should tout the virtues of making everything boring. (shrink)