In this paper I want to discuss the way in which physical science has come to claim a particular kind of hegemony over other subjects in the second half of this century. This claim to hegemony is generally known by the name of "physicalism". In this paper I shall try to understand why this doctrine has come to prominence in recent decades. By placing this doctrine in a historical context, we will be better able to appreciate its strengths and (...) weaknesses. (shrink)
An analysis and rebuttal of Jaegwon Kim's reasons for taking nonreductive physicalism to entail the causal irrelevance of mental features to physical phenomena, particularly the behaviour of human bodies.
The appeal of materialism lies precisely in this, in its claim to be natural metaphysics within the bounds of science. That a doctrine which promises to gratify our ambition (to know the noumenal) and our caution (not to be unscientific) should have great appeal is hardly something to be wondered at. (Putnam (1983), p.210) Materialism says that all facts, in particular all mental facts, obtain in virtue of the spatio- temporal distribution, and properties, of matter. It was, as Putnam says, (...) “metaphysics within the bounds of science”, but only so long as science was thought to say that the world is made out of matter.1 In this century physicists have learned that there is more in the world than matter and, in any case, matter isn’t quite what it seemed to be. For this reason many philosophers who think that metaphysics should be informed by science advocate physicalism in place of materialism. Physicalism claims that all facts obtain in virtue of the distribution of the fundamental entities and properties –whatever they turn out to be- of completed fundamental physics. Later I will discuss a more precise formulation. But not all contemporary philosophers embrace physicalism. Some- and though a minority not a small or un-influential one- think that physicalism is rather the metaphysics for an unjustified scientism; i.e. it is scientistic metaphysics. Those among them that think that physicalism can be clearly formulated think that it characterizes a. (shrink)
Nonreductive physicalism faces serious problems regarding causal exclusion, causal heterogeneity, and the nature of realization. In this paper I advance solutions to each of those problems. The proposed solutions all depend crucially on embracing modal counterpart theory. Hence, the paper’s thesis: counterpart theory saves nonreductive physicalism. I take as my inspiration the view that mental tokens are constituted by physical tokens in the same way statues are constituted by lumps of clay. I break from other philosophers who have (...) pursued this line, however, in that I hold that constitution is identity. Much of the value of the comparison to statues and lumps is that it calls to mind the resources used to defend constitution-as-identity, most notably that of counterpart theory. Along the way, I discuss the virtues of a trope ontology, modal objections to token identity theories, the prospects of conditional analyses of causal powers, the subset account of realization, and the grounding problem. I also endorse a novel, empirical argument in favor of counterpart theory. (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.
The standard picture -- Form and alternatives -- The starting point view -- The theory view -- Hempel's dilemma -- The necessity view -- Is necessitation necessary? -- Is necessitation sufficient? -- Skeptics and true believers -- Arguments against physicalism -- Arguments for physicalism.
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)
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)
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)
A stubborn problem for reflectance physicalism about color is to account for individual differences in normal trichromat color perception. The identification of determinate colors with physical properties of visible surfaces in a universal, perceiver-independent way is challenged by the observation that the same surfaces in identical viewing conditions often look different in color to different human subjects with normal color vision. Recently, leading representatives of reflectance physicalism have offered some arguments to defend their view against the individual differences (...) challenge. In this paper I challenge their defense. I argue thateven though individual differences are present in shape perception as well as in color perception, the mechanisms of shape perception and those of color perception differ in ways which make them completely different regarding their evidential status for certain identity claims. Thus comparing color perception to shape perception offers no support for identifying hues with reflectances. On the other hand, drawing a parallel between the temperature-mean kinetic energy of molecules (MKE) identification and the proposed hue-reflectance identities is no support for reflectance physicalism either, since there is an important disanalogybetween the two cases. While individual differences obtain in color perception, the effects of temperature (e.g., melting, thermal expansion) do not exhibit analogous variation, which makes the temperature-MKE identification unproblematic compared to the hue-reflectance identification. One motivation for this ongoing debate is that the success or failure of reflectance physicalism has far-reaching consequences regarding externalist theories of phenomenal consciousness. (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.
In this paper I argue that a priori arguments fail to present any real problem for physicalism. They beg the question against physicalism in the sense that the argument will only seem compelling if one is already assuming that qualitative properties are nonphysical. To show this I will present the reverse-zombie and reverse-knowledge arguments. The only evidence against physicalism is a priori arguments, but there are also a priori arguments against dualism of exactly the same variety. Each (...) of these parity arguments has premises that are just as intuitively plausible, and it cannot be the case that both the traditional scenarios and the reverse-scenarios are all ideally conceivable. Given this one set must be merely prima facie conceivable and only empirical methods will tell us which is which. So, by the time a priori methodology will be of any use it will be too late. (shrink)
Many philosophers are impressed by the progress achieved by physical sciences. This has had an especially deep effect on their ontological views: it has made many of them physicalists. Physicalists believe that everything is physical: more precisely, that all entities, properties, relations, and facts are those which are studied by physics or other physical sciences. They may not all agree with the spirit of Rutherford's quoted remark that 'there is physics; and there is stamp-collecting',' but they all grant physical science (...) a unique ontological authority: the authority to tell us what there is. Physicalism is now almost orthodox in much philosophy, notably in much recent philosophy of mind. But although often invoked, it is rarely explicitly defined. It should be. The claim that everything is physical is not as clear as it seems. In this paper, we examine a number of proposed definitions of physicalism and reasons for being a physicalist. We will argue both that physicalism lacks a clear and credible definition, and that in no non-vacuous interpretation is it true. We are concerned here only with physicalism as a doctrine about the empirical world. In particular, it should not be confused with nominalism, the doctrine that there are no universals.2 Nominalism and physicalism are quite independent doctrines. Believers in universals may as consistently assert as deny that the only properties and relations are those studied by physical science. And nominalists may with equal consistency assert or deny that physical science could provide enough predicates to describe the world. That is the question which concerns physicalists, not whether physical predicates name real universals. (We will for brevity write as if they do, but we do not need that assumption.). (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)
Some claim that Non- reductive Physicalism is an unstable position, on grounds that NRP either collapses into reductive physicalism, or expands into emergentism of a robust or ‘strong’ variety. I argue that this claim is unfounded, by attention to the notion of a degree of freedom—roughly, an independent parameter needed to characterize an entity as being in a state functionally relevant to its law-governed properties and behavior. I start by distinguishing three relations that may hold between the degrees (...) of freedom needed to characterize certain special science entities, and those needed to characterize their composing physical entities; these correspond to what I call ‘reductions’, ‘restrictions’, and ‘eliminations’ in degrees of freedom. I then argue that eliminations in degrees of freedom, in particular—when strictly fewer degrees of freedom are required to characterize certain special science entities than are required to characterize their composing physical entities—provide a basis for making sense of how certain special science entities can be both physically acceptable and ontologically irreducible to physical entities. (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)
I problematize Grounding-based formulations of physicalism. More specifically, I argue, first, that motivations for adopting a Grounding-based formulation of physicalism are unsound; second, that a Grounding-based formulation lacks illuminating content, and that attempts to imbue Grounding with content by taking it to be a strict partial order are unuseful and problematic ; third, that conceptions of Grounding as constitutively connected to metaphysical explanation conflate metaphysics and epistemology, are ultimately either circular or self-undermining, and controversially assume that physical dependence (...) is incompatible with explanatory gaps; fourth, that in order to appropriately distinguish physicalism from strong emergentism, a Grounding-based formulation must introduce one and likely two primitives in addition to Grounding; and fifth, that understanding physical dependence in terms of Grounding gives rise to ‘spandrel’ questions, including, e.g., “What Grounds Grounding?”, which arise only due to the overly abstract nature of Grounding. (shrink)
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)
In recent years, the debate on the problem of causal exclusion has seen an ‘interventionist turn’. Numerous non-reductive physicalists (e.g. Shapiro and Sober 2007) have argued that Woodward's (2003) interventionist theory of causation provides a means to empirically establish the existence of non-reducible mental-to-physical causation. By contrast, Baumgartner (2010) has presented an interventionist exclusion argument showing that interventionism is in fact incompatible with non-reductive physicalism. In response, a number of revised versions of interventionism have been suggested that are compatible (...) with non-reductive physicalism. The first part of this paper reconstructs the definitional details of these modified interventionist theories. The second part investigates whether the modification proposed in Woodward (2011) is not only compatible with, but moreover supports non-reductive physicalism. In particular, it is examined whether that newest variant of interventionism allows for empirically resolving the problem of causal exclusion as envisaged by Shapiro, Sober and others. (shrink)
Note: this is the first published presentation and defense of the 'proper subset strategy' for making sense of non-reductive physicalism or the associated notion of realization; this is sometimes, inaccurately, called "Shoemaker's subset strategy"; if people could either call it the 'subset strategy' or better yet, add my name to the mix I would appreciate it. Horgan claims that physicalism requires "superdupervenience" -- supervenience plus robust ontological explanation of the supervenient in terms of the base properties. I argue (...) that Horgan's account fails to rule out physically unacceptable emergence. I rather suggest that this and other unacceptable possibilities may be ruled out by requiring that each individual causal power in the set associated with a given supervenient property be numerically identical with a causal power in the set associated with its base property. I go on to show that a wide variety of physicalist accounts, both reductive and non-reductive, are implicitly or explicitly designed to meet this condition, and so are more similar than they seem. In particular, non-reductive physicalism accounts typically appeal to a relation plausibly ensuring that the powers of a higher-level property are a proper subset of those of its physical base property. (shrink)
According to experiential revelation, phenomenal concepts reveal the nature of the phenomenal properties they refer to. Some see experiential revelation as posing a direct challenge to physicalism. The basic idea is this: given experiential revelation, were phenomenal properties physical/functional in nature they would be presented as such when you think of them under phenomenal concepts, but phenomenal concepts don’t present their referents in this way. I argue that, while this argument on a plausible reconstruction fails, the thesis of experiential (...) revelation nevertheless indirectly challenges physicalism. In particular, it potentially undermines the so-called phenomenal concept strategy, a key defense maneuver of the physicalist for responding to dualist arguments concerning experience. The moral is that issues concerning revelation do indeed pose a problem for physicalism, but not for the reasons you might think. (shrink)
Although the capacity to discriminate between different qualia is typically admitted to have a definition in terms of functional role, the qualia thereby related are thought to elude functional definition. In this paper I argue that these views are inconsistent. Given a functional model of discrimination, one can construct from it a definition of qualia. The problem is similar in many ways to Goodman's definition of qualia in terms of 'matching', and I argue that many of his findings survive reinterpretation (...) into a physicalistic basis which employs 'indiscriminability' as its primitive term. I show how one can identify the critical properties to which discrimination capacities are sensitive, and then identify their order. A problem arises concerning the different ways in which qualitatively distinct experiences can differ (hue, shape, and so on). Physicalist accounts have often been accused of relying in a circular fashion on some antecedent understanding of phenomenal properties in order to specify those differences. This account avoids such an accusation: ordering of critical properties is determined by the dimensionality of discriminations, and the latter is given by the structure of the discrimination pair lists. Once a topology of quality is constructed, qualia names can be defined by their relative location within the order. In the conclusion I argue that psychophysics employs physicalist techniques to define a topology of quality, and that it can provide what Thomas Nagel calls an "objective phenomenology.". (shrink)
Physicalism is sometimes portrayed by its critics as a dogma, but there is an empirical argument for the position, one based on the accumulation of diverse microphysical causal explanations in physics, chemistry, and physiology. The canonical statement of this argument was presented in 2001 by David Papineau. The goal of this paper is to demonstrate a tension that arises between this way of understanding the empirical case for physicalism and a view that is becoming practically a received position (...) in philosophy of physics: that microphysics does not support the existence of causal facts (and so does not support causal explanations). Indeed this is a conclusion embraced in recent work by Papineau himself. This paper examines a range of natural ways of avoiding this tension and reconciling the empirical case for physicalism with the rejection of microphysical causation. (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)
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)
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)
The aim of this paper is to show that Kim’s ‚supervenience argument’ is at best inconclusive and so fails to provide an adequate challenge to nonreductive physicalism. I shall argue, first, that Kim’s argument rests on assumptions that the nonreductive physicalist is entitled to regard as question-begging; second, that even if those assumptions are granted, it is not clear that irreducible mental causes fail to␣satisfy them; and, third, that since the argument has the overall structure of a reductio, which (...) of its various premises one performs the reductio on remains open to debate in an interesting way. I shall finally suggest that the issue of reductive vs. nonreductive physicalism is best contested not in the arena of mental causation but in that in which the issues pertaining to theory and property reduction are currently being debated. (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.
Larry Hardin has been the most steadfast and influential critic of physicalist theories of color over the last 20 years. In their modern form these theories originated with the work of Smart and Armstrong in the 1960s and 1970s1 and Hardin appropriately concentrated on their views in his initial critique of physicalism.2 In his most recent contribution to this project3 he attacks Michael Tye’s recent attempts to defend and extend color physicalism.4 Like Byrne and Hilbert5, Tye identifies color (...) with the reflecting properties of objects (“reflectance physicalism”). Specifically, the determinate and determinable colors are identified with types of reflectances. (Setting some complications aside, the reflectance of an object is the proportion of light that it reflects at each wavelength in the visible spectrum.) These reflectance types are, in the terminology of Hilbert, anthropocentric—in the terminology of Lewis6, they are not very “natural”. (shrink)
Many hold an Aristotelian metaphysic of objects: fundamentally, objects fall under sortals and have persistence conditions befitting their sort. Though sometimes offered as a theory of material objects, I argue this view is in fact incompatible with physicalism. Call a ‘sortal’ a kind of object, a ‘sortal identity’ a particular’s nature specified in sortal terms, and ‘sortal properties’ properties that are determined by an object’s sortal identity, such as its persistence conditions. From here the argument runs as follows. Something (...) is physical only if it is physically fundamental or is determined by what is physically fundamental (P1), but sortal identities and properties are neither physically fundamental (P2) nor determined by the physically fundamental (P3). I defend each premise in turn. P1 falls out of the standard conception of physicalism. Rejecting P2 is tantamount to positing Aristotelian substantial forms and formal causes—which are themselves incompatible with physicalism. I defend P3 by showing that extant solutions to “the grounding problem”—the problem of showing how sortal properties are determined by physical properties—are either physicalistically unacceptable, or else physicalistically acceptable but opposed to the sortalist metaphysic. (shrink)
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)
The literature on physicalism often fails to elucidate, I think, what the word physical in physical ism precisely means. Philosophers speak at times of an ideal set of fundamental physical facts, or they stipulate that physical means non-mental , such that all fundamental physical facts are fundamental facts pertaining to the non-mental. In this article, I will probe physicalism in the very much tangible framework of quantum mechanics. Although this theory, unlike “ideal physics” or some “final theory of (...) non-mentality”, is an incomplete theory of the world, I believe this analysis will be of value, if for nothing else, at least for bringing some taste of physical reality, as it were, back to the debate. First, I will introduce a broad characterization of the physicalist credo. In Sect. 2, I will provide a rather quick review of quantum mechanics and some of its current interpretations. In Sect. 3, the notion of quantum non-separability will be analyzed, which will facilitate a discussion of the wave function ontology in Sect. 4. In Sects. 5 and 6, I will explore competing views on the implications of this ontology. In Sect. 7, I will argue that the prior results, based on a thoroughly realist interpretation of quantum mechanics, support only a weak version of non-reductive 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.
The causal argument for physicalism is anayzed and it's key premise--the causal closure of physics--is found wanting. Therefore, a hidden premise must be added to the argument to gain its conclusion, but the hidden premise is indistinguishable from the conclusion of the causal argument. Therefore, it begs the question on physicalism.
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)
The aim of this editorial introduction is twofold. First, Sects. 1–8 oﬀer a critical introduction to the metaphysical character of physicalism. In those sections, I present and evaluate different ways in which proponents of physicalism have made explicit the metaphysical dependence that is said to hold between the non-physical and the physical. Some of these accounts are found to be problematic; others are shown to be somewhat more promising. In the end, some important lessons are drawn and different (...) options for physicalists are presented. Second, in Sect.9, the six papers that comprise the special issue are introduced and summarized. (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)
Discussion of the supervenience relation in the philosophical literature of recent years has become Byzantine in its intricacy and diversity. Subtle modulations of the basic concept have been tooled and retooled with increasing frequency, until supervenience has lost nearly all its original lustre as a simple and powerful tool for cracking open refractory philosophical problems. I present a conceptual model of the supervenience relation that captures all the important extant concepts without ignoring the complexities uncovered during work over the past (...) two decades. I test my analysis by applying it to the problem of defining physicalism, concluding that the thesis of physicalism is best captured by the conjunction of two supervenience relations. (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 and antireductionism are the ruling orthodoxy in the philosophy of biology. But these two theses are difficult to reconcile. Merely embracing an epistemic antireductionism will not suffice, as both reductionists and antireductionists accept that given our cognitive interests and limitations, non-molecular explanations may not be improved, corrected or grounded in molecular ones. Moreover, antireductionists themselves view their claim as a metaphysical or ontological one about the existence of facts molecular biology cannot identify, express, or explain. However, this is (...) tantamount to a rejection of physicalism and so causes the antireductionist discomfort. In this paper we argue that vindicating physicalism requires a physicalistic account of the principle of natural selection, and we provide such an account. The most important pay-off to the account is that it provides for the very sort of autonomy from the physical that antireductionists need without threatening their commitment to physicalism. (shrink)
I argue that the argument from zombies against physicalism is question-begging unless proponents of the argument from zombies can justify the inference from the metaphysical possibility of zombies to the falsity of physicalism in an independent and non-circular way, i.e., a way that does not already assume the falsity of physicalism.
In this article, I present a Leibnizian cosmological argument to the conclusion that either the totality of physical beings has a non-physical cause, or a necessary being exists. The crucial premise of the argument is a restricted version of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, namely the claim that every contingent physical phenomenon has a sufficient cause (PSR-P). I defend this principle by comparing it with a causal principle that is fundamental for physicalism, namely the Causal Closure of Physics, which (...) says that every physical effect has a sufficient physical cause (CC). I find that the evidence for Causal Closure is weaker than the evidence for PSR-P, which means that physicalists who take CC to be justified must concede that PSR-P is also justified, and to a higher degree. Since my Leibnizian cosmological argument succeeds if PSR-P is granted, I conclude that physicalists must either give up CC and thereby physicalism, or accept that a necessary being exists. (shrink)
One strategy for blocking Chalmers's overall case against physicalism has been to deny his claim that showing that phenomenal properties are in some sense physical requires an a priori entailment of the phenomenal truths from the physical ones. Here I avoid this well-trodden ground and argue instead that an a priori entailment of the phenomenal truths from the physical ones does not require an analysis in the Jackson/Chalmers sense. This is to sever the dualist's link between conceptual analysis and (...) a priori entailment by showing that the lack of the former does not imply the absence of the latter. Moreover, given the role of the argument from conceptual analysis in Chalmers's overall case for dualism, undermining that argument effectively undermines that case as a whole in a way that, I'll argue, undermining the conceivability arguments as stand-alone arguments does not. (shrink)
Might the world be structured, as Leibniz thought, so that every part of matter is divided ad infinitum? The Physicist David Bohm accepted infinitely decomposable matter, and even Steven Weinberg, a staunch supporter of the idea that science is converging on a final theory, admits the possibility of an endless chain of ever more fundamental theories. However, if there is no fundamental level, physicalism, thought of as the view that everything is determined by fundamental phenomena and that all fundamental (...) phenomena are physical, turns out false, for in such a world, there are no fundamental phenomena, and so fundamental phenomena determine nothing. While some take physicalism necessarily to posit a fundamental level, here I present a thesis of physicalism that allows for its truth even in an infinitely decomposable world. (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)
Dualism can be contrasted with monism, and also with physicalism. It is argued here that what is essential to physicalism is not just its denial of dualism , but the epistemological and ontological authority it gives to physical science. A physicalist view of the mind must be reductive in one or both of the following senses: it must identify mental phenomena with physical phenomena or it must give an explanation of mental phenomena in physical terms . There is (...) little reason to call a view which is not reductive in either of these senses “physicalism”. If reduction is rejected, then a non-physicalist form of monism is still available, which may be called “emergentism”. (shrink)
In "What is it Like to be a Bat?" Thomas Nagel argues that we cannot imagine what it is like to be a bat or presently understand how physicalism might be true. Both arguments have been seriously misunderstood. I defend them against various objections, point out a problem with the argument against physicalism, and show how the problem can be solved.
The aim of the paper is to show that the privacy of conscious experience is inconsistent with any kind of physicalism. That is, if you are a physicalist, then you have to deny that more than one subject cannot undergo the very same conscious experience. In the first part of the paper we define the concepts of privacy and physicalism. In the second part we delineate two thought experiments in which two subjects undergo the same kind of conscious (...) experience in such a way that all the physical processes responsible for their experiences are numerically the same. Based on the thought experiments and their interpretations we present our argument for the inconsistency of the privacy of experience with physicalism in the third part of the paper. In the final part we defend our argumentation against some objections. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that there are problems with the foundations of the current version of physicalism about color. In some sources laying the foundations of physicalism, types of surface reflectance corresponding to (veridical) color perceptions are characterized by making reference to properties of the observer. This means that these surface attributes are not objective (i.e. observer-independent). This problem casts doubt on the possibility of identifying colors with types of surface reflectance. If this identification cannot be maintained, (...) that in turn threatens representationalist theories of phenomenal consciousness: there remains no objective, observer-independent property that color experiences represent - hence no representational content, in terms of semantic externalism, can be attributed to color experiences. I offer an alternative account of color and conclude that further empirical study is required to do justice to the basic claims of color physicalism. (shrink)