This chapter considers potential applications of grounding to the formulation of physicalism. I begin with an overview of competing conceptions of the physical and of physicalism. I then consider whether grounding physicalism overcomes well-known and seemingly fatal problems with supervenience physicalism. I conclude that while grounding physicalism improves upon supervenience physicalism in certain respects, it arguably falls victim to some of the same difficulties.
Physicalism, the thesis that everything is physical, is one of the most controversial problems in philosophy. Its adherents argue that there is no more important doctrine in philosophy, whilst its opponents claim that its role is greatly exaggerated. In this superb introduction to the problem Daniel Stoljar focuses on three fundamental questions: the interpretation, truth and philosophical significance of physicalism. In answering these questions he covers the following key topics: -/- (i)A brief history of physicalism and its (...) definitions, (ii)what a physical property is and how physicalism meets challenges from empirical sciences, (iii)'Hempel’s dilemma’ and the relationship between physicalism and physics, (iv)physicalism and key debates in metaphysics and philosophy of mind, such as supervenience, identity and conceivability, and (v)physicalism and causality. -/- Additional features include chapter summaries, annotated further reading and a glossary of technical terms, making Physicalism ideal for those coming to the problem for the first time. (shrink)
Colours appear to instantiate a number of structural properties: for instance, they stand in distinctive relations of similarity and difference, and admit of a fundamental distinction into unique and binary. Accounting for these structural properties is often taken to present a serious problem for physicalist theories of colour. This paper argues that a prominent attempt by Byrne and Hilbert to account for the structural properties of the colours, consistent with the claim that colours are types of surface spectral reflectance, is (...) unsuccessful. Instead, it is suggested that a better account of the structural properties of the colours is provided by a form of non-reductive physicalism about colour: a naïve realist theory of colour, according to which colours are superficial mind-independent properties. (shrink)
Physicalism, a topic that has been central to modern philosophy of mind and metaphysics, is the philosophical view that everything in the space-time world is ultimately physical. The physicalist will claim that all facts about the mind and the mental are physical facts and deny the existence of mental events and state insofar as these are thought of as independent of physical things, events and states. This collection of essays, first published in 2001, offers a series of perspectives on (...) this important doctrine and brings depth and breadth to the philosophical debate. A group of distinguished philosophers, comprising both physicalists and their critics, consider a wide range of issues including the historical genesis and present justification of physicalism, its metaphysical presuppositions and methodological role, its implications for mental causation, and the account it provides of consciousness. (shrink)
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)
Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical, or as contemporary philosophers sometimes put it, that everything supervenes on, or is necessitated by, the physical. The thesis is usually intended as a metaphysical thesis, parallel to the thesis attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Thales, that everything is water, or the idealism of the 18th Century philosopher Berkeley, that everything is mental. The general idea is that the nature of the actual world (i.e. the universe and everything in it) (...) conforms to a certain condition, the condition of being physical. Of course, physicalists don't deny that the world might contain many items that at first glance don't seem physical — items of a biological, or psychological, or moral, or social nature. But they insist nevertheless that at the end of the day such items are either physical or supervene on the physical. (shrink)
In Beyond Physicalism, an interdisciplinary group of physical scientists, behavioral and social scientists, and humanists from the Esalen Institute’s Center for Theory and Research argue that physicalism must be replaced by an expanded scientific naturalism that accommodates something spiritual at the heart of nature.
It is often argued that higher-level special-science properties cannot be causally efficacious since the lower-level physical properties on which they supervene are doing all the causal work. This claim is usually derived from an exclusion principle stating that if a higherlevel property F supervenes on a physical property F* that is causally sufficient for a property G, then F cannot cause G. We employ an account of causation as differencemaking to show that the truth or falsity of this principle is (...) a contingent matter and derive necessary and sufficient conditions under which a version of it holds. We argue that one important instance of the principle, far from undermining non-reductive physicalism, actually supports the causal autonomy of certain higher-level properties. (shrink)
How should thought and consciousness be understood within a view of the world as being through-and-through physical? Many philosophers have proposed non-reductive, levels-based positions, according to which the physical domain is fundamental, while thought and consciousness are higher-level processes, dependent on and determined by physical processes. In this book, Kevin Morris's careful philosophical and historical critique shows that it is very difficult to make good metaphysical sense of this idea - notions like supervenience, physical realization, and grounding all fail to (...) articulate a viable non-reductive, levels-based physicalism. Challenging assumptions about the mind-body problem and providing new perspectives on the debate over physicalism, this accessible and comprehensive book will interest scholars working in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science. (shrink)
A phenomenal concept is the concept of a particular type of sensory or perceptual experience, where the notion of experience is understood phenomenologically. A recent and increasingly influential idea in philosophy of mind suggests that reflection on these concepts will play a major role in the debate about conscious experience, and in particular in the defense of physicalism, the thesis that psychological truths supervene on physical truths. According to this idea—I call it the phenomenal concept strategy —phenomenal concepts are (...) importantly different from other concepts, and arguments against physicalism fatally neglect to take this difference into account. This paper divides the phenomenal concept strategy into a number of different versions, and argues that no version of the strategy is successful. The paper ends by contrasting the phenomenal concept strategy with a rival strategy—I call it the missing concept strategy . I suggest that the missing concept strategy presents a more plausible response to the issues about physicalism and experience. (shrink)
The development of a defensible and fecund notion of emergence has been dogged by a number of threshold issues neatly highlighted in a recent paper by Jaegwon Kim. We argue that physicalist assumptions confuse and vitiate the whole project. In particular, his contention that emergence entails supervenience is contradicted by his own argument that the ‘microstructure’ of an object belongs to the whole object, not to its constituents. And his argument against the possibility of downward causation is question-begging and makes (...) false assumptions about causal sufficiency. We argue, on the contrary, for a rejection of the deeply entrenched assumption, shared by physicalists and Cartesians alike, that what basically exists are things (entities, substances). Our best physics tells us that there are no basic particulars, only fields in process. We need an ontology which gives priority to organization, which is inherently relational. Reflection upon the fact that all biological creatures are far-from-equilibrium systems, whose very persistence depend upon their interactions with their environment, reveals incoherence in the notion of an ‘emergence base’. (shrink)
On the heels of the advance since the twentieth-century of wholly physicalist accounts of human persons, the influence of materialist ontology is increasingly evident in Christian theologizing. To date, the contemporary literature has tended to focus on anthropological issues (e.g., whether the traditional soul / body distinction is viable), with occasional articles treating physicalist accounts of such doctrines as the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus cropping up, as well. Interestingly, the literature to date, both for and against this influence, is (...) dominated by philosophers. The present volume is a collection of philosophers and theologians who advance several novel criticisms of this growing trend toward physicalism in Christian theology. The present collection definitively shows that Christian physicalism has some significant philosophical and theological problems. No doubt all philosophical anthropologies have their challenges, but the present volume shows that Christian physicalism is most likely not an adequate accounting for essential theological topics within Christian theism. Christians, then, should consider alternative anthropologies. (shrink)
This paper describes a version of type identity physicalism, which we call Flat Physicalism, and shows how it meets several objections often raised against identity theories. This identity theory is informed by recent results in the conceptual foundations of physics, and in particular clar- ifies the notion of ‘physical kinds’ in light of a conceptual analysis of the paradigmatic case of reducing thermody- namics to statistical mechanics. We show how Flat Physi- calism is compatible with the appearance of (...) multiple realisation in the special sciences, and how and in what sense the special sciences laws are autonomous from the laws of physics, despite the full reductive picture of Flat Physicalism. We compare our view with a recent proposal by William Bechtel that accounts for the appearance of levels in mechanistic explanations. (shrink)
Physicalism is a program for building a unified system of knowledge about the world on the basis of the view that everything is a manifestation of the physical aspects of existence. Jeffrey Poland presents a systematic and comprehensive exploration of the philosophical foundations of this program. He investigates the core ideas, motivating values, and presuppositions of physicalism; the constraints upon an adequate formulation of physicalist doctrine; the epistemological and modal status, the scope, and the methodological roles of physicalist (...) principles. He reviews and evaluates major objections to the program, and considers its significance for philosophy, science, society, and individual persons. He also examines the relations between physicalism and other philosophical positions, such as realism, empiricism, and relativism, and suggests that physicalism is compatible with a tolerant pluralism in the philosophical, cultural, and personal domains. (shrink)
The dispute between realists about color and anti-realists is actually a dispute about the nature of color properties. The disputants do not disagree over what material objects are like. Rather, they disagree over whether any of the uncontroversial facts about material objects--their powers to cause visual experiences, their dispositions to reflect incident light, their atomic makeup, and so on--amount to their having colors. The disagreement is thus about which properties colors are and, in particular, whether colors are any of the (...) properties in a particular set that is acknowledged on both sides to exhaust the properties of material objects. In a previous paper we discussed at length one attempt to identify colors with particular properties of material objects--namely, with their dispositions to cause visual experiences. Here we shall discuss a different and perhaps more influential version of realism, which says that the colors of material objects are microphysical properties of their surfaces. We shall call this theory physicalism about color (physicalism, for short). In order to evaluate this theory, however, we shall first have to clarify some methodological issues. Our hope is that we can bring some further clarity to the question of color realism, whether or not we succeed in our critique of the physicalists' answer. (shrink)
There is a growing consensus among philosophers of science that scientific endeavors of understanding the human mind or the brain exhibit explanatory pluralism. Relatedly, several philosophers have in recent years defended an interventionist approach to causation that leads to a kind of causal pluralism. In this paper, I explore the consequences of these recent developments in philosophy of science for some of the central debates in philosophy of mind. First, I argue that if we adopt explanatory pluralism and the interventionist (...) approach to causation, our understanding of physicalism has to change, and this leads to what I call pluralistic physicalism. Secondly, I show that this pluralistic physicalism is not endangered by the causal exclusion argument. (shrink)
It is widely noted that physicalism, taken as the doctrine that the world contains just what physics says it contains, faces a dilemma which, some like Tim Crane and D.H. Mellor have argued, shows that “physicalism is the wrong answer to an essentially trivial question”. I argue that both problematic horns of this dilemma drop out if one takes physicalism not to be a doctrine of the kind that might be true, false, or trivial, but instead an (...) attitude or oath one takes to formulate one’s ontology solely according to the current posits of physics. (shrink)
Flat Physicalism is a theory of through and through type reductive physicalism, understood in light of recent results in the conceptual foundations of physics. In Flat Physicalism, as in physics, so-called "high level" concepts and laws are nothing but partial descriptions of the complete states of affairs of the universe. "Flat physicalism" generalizes this idea, to form a reductive picture in which there is no room for levels, neither explanatory nor ontological. The paper explains how phenomena (...) that seem to be cases of multiple realization of special sciences kinds by physical kinds are fully explains in a reductive physicalist way. Finally, the paper exemplifies the fruitfulness of this reductive approach by showing how it can account even for a case of high-level anomaly in a deterministic universe (for example anomaly of the mental, should this turn our to be a fact about the world) - a result that may be called Anomalous Physicalism. (shrink)
Frank Jackson’s famous Knowledge Argument moves from the premise that complete physical knowledge is not complete knowledge about experiences to the falsity of physicalism. In recent years, a consensus has emerged that the credibility of this and other well-known anti-physicalist arguments can be undermined by allowing that we possess a special category of concepts of experiences, phenomenal concepts, which are conceptually independent from physical/functional concepts. It is held by a large number of philosophers that since the conceptual independence of (...) phenomenal concepts does not imply the metaphysical independence of phenomenal properties, physicalism is safe. This paper distinguishes between two versions of this novel physicalist strategy –Phenomenal Concept Strategy (PCS) – depending on how it cashes out “conceptual independence,” and argues that neither helps the physicalist cause. A dilemma for PCS arises: cashing out “conceptual independence” in a way compatible with physicalism requires abandoning some manifest phenomenological intuitions, and cashing it out in a way compatible with those intuitions requires dropping physicalism. The upshot is that contra Brian Loar and others, one cannot “have it both ways.”. (shrink)
ABSTRACT This essay has three goals. The first is to introduce the notion of fundamentality and to argue that physicalism can usefully be conceived of as a thesis about fundamentality. The second is to argue for the advantages of fundamentality physicalism over modal formulations and that fundamentality physicalism is what many who endorse modal formulations of physicalism had in mind all along. Third, I describe what I take to be the main obstacle for a fundamentality-oriented formulation (...) of physicalism: ‘the problem of abstracta’, which asks how physical can accommodate phenomena such as mathematics and universals, and which modal formulations do not face. I canvas three solutions: the inapt for ground solution, the concrete restriction, and the contingency restriction. (shrink)
The primary aim of this study is to dissolve the mind-body problem. It shows how the ‘problem’ separates into two distinct sets of issues, concerning ontology on the one hand, and explanation on the other, and argues that explanation – whether or not human behaviour can be explained in physical terms – is the more crucial. The author contends that a functionalist methodology in psychology and neurophysiology will prove adequate to explain human behaviour. Defence of this thesis requires: an examination (...) of the mental/physical dichotomy, and its rejection in favour of a distinction between psychological and physical terms; a description and discussion of functionalism in psychology and neurophysiology, showing how the notorious problem of the necessary intensionality of psychological terms may be circumvented; an examination of the role of computer simulation in psycho-physical research; and an explanation of how the phenomena of sentience fit the functional framework. The book concludes that the thesis presented is in all essentials that of Aristotle; Aristotle had no ‘mind-body problem’, and were it not for a subsequent over-obsession with Cartesian scepticism, we need not have had one either. (shrink)
How should ‘the physical’ be defined for the purpose of formulating physicalism? In this paper I defend a version of the via negativa according to which a property is physical just in case it is neither fundamentally mental nor possibly realized by a fundamentally mental property. The guiding idea is that physicalism requires functionalism, and thus that being a type identity theorist requires being a realizer-functionalist. In §1 I motivate my approach partly by arguing against Jessica Wilson's no (...) fundamental mentality constraint. In §2 I set out my preferred definition of ‘the physical’ and make my case that physicalism requires functionalism. In §3 I defend my proposal by attacking the leading alternative account of ‘the physical,’ the theory-based conception. Finally, in §4 I draw on my definition, together with Jaegwon Kim's account of intertheoretic reduction, to defend the controversial view that physicalism requires a priori physicalism. (shrink)
I argue that our knowledge of the world's causal structure does not generate a sound argument for physicalism. This undermines the popular view that physicalism is the only scientifically respectable worldview.
Russellian monism – an influential doctrine proposed by Russell (1927/1992) – is roughly the view that the natural sciences can only ever tell us about the causal, dispositional, and structural properties of physical entities and not about their categorical properties, and, moreover, that our qualia are constituted by categorical properties. Recently, Stoljar (2001a, 2001b), Strawson (2008), Montero (2010, 2015), Alter and Nagasawa (2012), and Chalmers (2015) have attempted to develop this doctrine into a version of physicalism. Russellian monism faces (...) the so-called combination problem, according to which it is difficult to see how categorical properties could collectively constitute qualia. In this paper, I suggest that there is an insufficiently discussed aspect of the combination problem which I call the difference-maker problem. Taking the difference-maker problem into account, I argue that the combination problem – whether or not it can be solved – results in a dilemma for the project of developing Russellian physicalism. That is, Russellian monism is either physicalistically unacceptable or it is implausible; hence, Russellian monism and physicalism are incompatible. (shrink)
It is often said that there are two varieties of identity theory. Type-identity theorists interpret physicalism as the claim that every property is identical to a physical property, while token-identity theorists interpret it as the claim that every particular is identical to a physical particular. The aim of this paper is to undermine the distinction between the two. Drawing on recent work connecting generalized identity to truth-maker semantics, I demonstrate that these interpretations are logically equivalent. I then argue that (...) each has the resources to resolve problems facing the other. (shrink)
How should we conceive of physicalism? Does it have to involve more than some kind of supervenience, or must it be reductionist or even eliminativist? Does it commit you to the psychophysical identity theory? Does it entail that all events are explicable in terms of physics? And what is to count as the physical—indeed, what is to count as physics? Jeffrey Poland offers well-argued answers to several of these questions, and a solidly constructed framework in terms of which we (...) may reasonably aim to answer the rest. His book is impressively systematic. He acknowledges debts to Post and to Hellman and Thompson, among others, but his conception of what physicalism should be is distinctive. I find it compelling. Anyone with an interest in physicalism, for or against, should read the book. (shrink)
Philosophers have traditionally treated physicalism as an empirically informed metaphysical thesis. This approach faces a well-known problem often referred to as Hempel’s dilemma: formulations of physicalism tend to be either false or indeterminate. The generally preferred strategy to address this problem involves an appeal to a hypothetical complete and ideal physical theory. After demonstrating that this strategy is not viable, I argue that we should redefine physicalism as an interdisciplinary research program seeking to explain the mental in (...) terms of the physical that encompasses the physical sciences, the psychological and brain sciences, and philosophy. Redefining physicalism in this way improves upon previous reconstructive accounts while avoiding the indeterminacy associated with orthodox forms of futurist physicalism. (shrink)
This article discusses recent disagreements over the correct formulation of physicalism. Although there appears to be a consensus outside those who discuss the issue that physicalists believe that what exists is what is countenanced by physics, as we will see, this orthodoxy faces an important puzzle now frequently referred to as 'Hempel's Dilemma'. After surveying the historical trajectory from Enlightenment-era materialism to contemporary physicalism, I examine several mainstream approaches that respond to Hempel's dilemma, and the benefits and drawbacks (...) of each. (shrink)
As a first pass, physicalism is the doctrine that there is nothing over and above the physical. Much recent philosophical work has been devoted to spelling out what this means in more rigorous terms and to assessing the case for the view. What follows is a survey of such work. I begin by looking at competing accounts of what is meant by nothing over and above and then turn to how the physical should be understood. Once we are clear (...) on the options for formulating the physicalist thesis, we will look at the leading argument for the view. Along the way, I will suggest avenues for further exploration. (shrink)
Physicalism is a metaphysical thesis easily presented in slogan form – there is nothing over and above the physical – but notoriously difficult to formulate precisely. "Understanding physicalism" combines insights from contemporary philosophy of mind and metaphysics to present a new account of physical properties and metaphysical dependence and, on this foundation, develop a more rigorous and illuminating formulation of the thesis of physicalism.
This paper discusses and evaluates a recent argument for the conclusion that an attractive variety of Russellian monism ought to be regarded as a form of physicalism. According to this line of thought, if the Russellian’s “inscrutable” properties are held to ground not only experience, but also the physical structure of the world—and in this sense are not “experience-specific”—they thereby have an unproblematic place in physicalist metaphysics. I argue, in contrast, that there can be a sense in which the (...) Russellian’s inscrutables are experience-specific in a way that a physicalist probably ought to find objectionable, even if they play some role other than grounding experience. This will be the case, I argue, if certain worlds are taken to be possible, as they sometimes have: worlds of “bare structure” and worlds with what might be called “swapped inscrutables”. In this way, I claim that accepting certain possibilities has consequences for how one should understand the nature of the Russellian’s inscrutables and the place they have in physicalist metaphysics. (shrink)
We provide a formulation of physicalism, and show that this is to be favoured over alternative formulations. Much of the literature on physicalism assumes without argument that there is a fundamental level to reality, and we show that a consideration of the levels problem and its implications for physicalism tells in favour of the form of physicalism proposed here. Its hey elements are, fast, that the empirical and substantive part of physicalism amounts to a prediction (...) that physics will not posit new entities solely for the purpose of accounting for mental phenomena, nor new entities with essentially mental characteristics such as propositioned attitudes or intentions; secondly, that physicalism can safely make do with no more than a weak global formulation of supervenience. (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.
It has been suggested that many philosophical theses—physicalism, normative naturalism, phenomenalism, and so on—should be understood in terms of ground. Against this, Ted Sider (2011) has argued that ground is ill-suited for this purpose. Here I develop Sider’s objection and offer a response. In doing so I develop a view about the role of ground in philosophy, and about the content of these distinctively philosophical theses.
In this paper we distinguish two issues that are often run together in discussions about physicalism. The first issue concerns levels. How do entities picked out by non-physical terminology, such as biological or psychological terminology, relate to physical entities? Are the former identical to, or metaphysically supervenient on, the latter? The second issue concerns physical parts and wholes. How do macroscopic physical entities relate to their microscopic parts? Are the former generally determined by the latter? We argue that views (...) on these two issues are independent of one another and should not be conflated. (shrink)
This paper examines whether biblical descriptions of the intermediate state imply dualism of the sort that rules out physicalism. Certain passages in the Bible seem to describe persons or souls existing without their bodies in an intermediate state between death and resurrection. For this reason, these passages appear to imply a form of dualism. Some Christian physicalists have countered that the passages in question are in fact compatible with physicalism. For it is compatible with physicalism that, although (...) we are necessarily constituted by physical bodies, we can continue to exist without our current bodies in the intermediate state by being constituted by replacement bodies. I argue that broadly Gricean considerations significantly weaken this response. In its place, I propose a new, linguistic objection to the biblical argument for dualism. The linguistic objection says that biblical descriptions of an intermediate state cannot imply dualism in the sense that contradicts physicalism because physicalism is defined by a concept of the physical derived from modern physics, and no term in the biblical languages expresses that concept. I argue that the linguistic objection is less vulnerable to Gricean considerations than the constitution objection. On the other hand the linguistic objection also makes concessions to dualism that some Christian physicalists will find unacceptable. And it may be possible to reinforce the biblical argument for dualism by appeal to recent research on ‘common-sense dualism’. The upshot for Christian physicalists who wish to remain open to the biblical case for an intermediate state is therefore partly good, partly bad. The prospects for a Biblical argument for dualism in the sense that contradicts physicalism are limited but remain open. (shrink)
This paper considers the extent to which the notion of truthmaking can play a substantive role in defining physicalism. While a truthmaking-based approach to physicalism is prima facie attractive, there is some reason to doubt that truthmaking can do much work when it comes to understanding physicalism, and perhaps austere metaphysical frameworks in general. First, despite promising to dispense with higher-level properties and states, truthmaking appears to make little progress on issues concerning higher-level items and how they (...) are related to how things are physically. Second, it seems that truthmaking-based approaches to physicalism will have a difficult time addressing the status of truthmaking itself without, in effect, appealing to the resources of alternative ways of conceptualizing physicalism. (shrink)
Introspection presents our phenomenal states in a manner otherwise than physical. This observation is often thought to amount to an argument against physicalism: if introspection presents phenomenal states as they essentially are, then phenomenal states cannot be physical states, for we are not introspectively aware of phenomenal states as physical states. In this article, I examine whether this argument threatens a posteriori physicalism. I argue that as along as proponents of a posteriori physicalism maintain that phenomenal concepts (...) present the nature of their referents in a partial and incomplete manner, a posteriori physicalism is safe. (shrink)
In this paper, we make a case for the disjunctive view of phenomenal consciousness: consciousness is essentially disjunctive in being either physical or non-physical in the sense that it has both physical and non-physical possible instances. We motivate this view by showing that it undermines two well-known conceivability arguments in philosophy of mind: the zombie argument for anti-physicalism, and the anti-zombie argument for physicalism. By appealing to the disjunctive view, we argue that two hitherto unquestioned premises of these (...) arguments are false. Furthermore, making use of the resources of this view, we formulate distinct forms of both physicalism and anti-physicalism. On these formulations, it is easy to see how physicalists and anti-physicalists can accommodate the modal intuitions of their opponents regarding zombies and anti-zombies. We conclude that these formulations of physicalism and anti-physicalism are superior to their more traditional counterparts. (shrink)
The physicalist thesis that all entities are nothing over and above physical entities is often interpreted as appealing to a supervenience-based account of "nothing over and aboveness”, where, schematically, the A-entities are nothing over and above the B-entities if the A-entities supervene on the B-entities. The main approaches to filling in this schema correspond to different ways of characterizing the modal strength, the supervenience base, or the supervenience connection at issue. I consider each approach in turn, and argue that the (...) resulting formulation of physicalism is compatible with physicalism’s best traditional rival: a naturalist emergentism. Others have argued that supervenience-based formulations of physicalism fail. My aim here, besides addressing the full spectrum of supervenience-based approaches, is to show how certain philosophical and scientific theses concerning naturalism, properties, and laws give us new reasons to think that supervenience-based formulations of physicalism are untenable. (shrink)
According to a widely held physicalist view, consciousness is identical with some physical or functional phenomenon just as liquidity is identical with loose molecular connection. To many of us, this claim about consciousness seems more problematic than the claim about liquidity. To many—including many physicalists—the identification of consciousness with some physical phenomenon even seems “absurd” or “crazy”. A full defence of physicalism should explain why the allegedly correct hypothesis comes across this way. If physicalism is true and we (...) have reason to accept it, why does it seem “absurd”? One possibility is that this is fully explained by the fact that we have an erroneous understanding of consciousness or its physical basis. This explanation is embraced by few if any physicalists. It is rejected by many, including proponents of the “phenomenal concept strategy”, which lately has become the dominant strategy for defending physicalism. But the “error explanation” is clearly the most plausible explanation that is available to physicalists. So this paper argues. (shrink)
that the properties of science are purely extrinsic with the metaphysical principle that substances must also have intrinsic properties, the arguments reach the conclusion that there are intrinsic properties of whose natures we cannot know. It is the goal of this paper to establish that such arguments are not just ironic but extremely problematic. The optimistic physicalist principles that help get the argument off the ground ultimately undermine any justification the premises give for acceptance of the conclusion. Though I do (...) find these arguments unsound, it is nevertheless worthwhile to consider them in order to see more clearly what should be the methodology of the philosopher inclined to take the discoveries of physical science as having ontological authority. And, I hope, what follows will prompt the physicalist to ask herself – what room _is_ there for metaphysics once physical science is complete? (shrink)
In this paper I intend to analyse whether a certain kind of physicalism (part-wholephysicalism)is supported by what classical mechanics and quantum mechanics have to say about the part whole relation. I will argue that not even the most likely candidates – namely cases of microexplanation of the dynamics of compound systems – provide evidence for part whole-physicalism, i.e. the thesis that the behaviour of the compound obtains in virtue of the behaviour of the parts. Physics does not dictate (...) part-whole-physicalism. (shrink)
A prominent objection to supervenience physicalism is that a definition of physicalism in terms of supervenience allows for physicalism to be compatible with nonphysicalist outlooks, such as certain forms of emergentism. I take as my starting point a recent defense of supervenience physicalism from this objection. According to this line of thought, the subvenient base for emergent properties cannot be said to be purely physical; rather, it is “polluted” with emergent features in virtue of necessarily giving (...) rise to them. Thus, if emergentism is true, it is false that everything supervenes on physical properties. I argue that this gives way to a new challenge for supervenience physicalism. The challenge, roughly, is to distinguish the emergentist’s “polluted” base from a physical supervenience base; that is, to give conditions under which the subvenient base is not “polluted” by supervenient properties. The problem, I argue, is that it is hard to see how this can be done without collapsing supervenience physicalism into alternative approaches to physicalism. I thus argue that if the present defense of supervenience physicalism succeeds in defending the adequacy of a supervenience-based definition of physicalism, it does so by compromising its uniqueness. (shrink)