Philosophy Physicalism and Metaphysical Naturalism
by
D. Gene Witmer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0258

Introduction

Much of contemporary metaphysical work is motivated in some way by the desire to accommodate what the natural sciences, especially physics, have taught us about the world. This motivation has drawn many philosophers to endorse doctrines variously described as physicalism, materialism, or naturalism. “Physicalism” and “materialism” are often treated as interchangeable names for a single doctrine that may be crudely expressed as the claim that everything that exists is physical. By contrast, “naturalism” is widely acknowledged to be ambiguous between at least two sorts of positions. Epistemological naturalism is the view that knowledge is best gained (perhaps: can only be gained) via the methods of science (perhaps: the methods of natural science). Metaphysical naturalism is often thought of as making a global ontological claim akin to physicalism—perhaps the claim that everything that exists is natural, where some explication of “natural” is evidently crucial. (“Naturalism” without qualification shall here be understood as referring to the metaphysical doctrine.) It is often suspected on the part of non-naturalists that a self-declared naturalist is really just a physicalist under a different label. Both doctrines are thought to have significant consequences for our understanding of the world, especially human aspects of the world and the nature of mentality. They may also have implications for our understanding of moral properties, abstract objects, the possibility of knowledge, and other familiar items of philosophical investigation. A global metaphysical theory of this sort induces what are known (following Frank Jackson in From Metaphysics to Ethics; see Jackson 1998, cited under Central Monographs) as “placement location problems”: the problem of locating in a wholly physical or natural world those things that seem not to be wholly physical or natural. Debates about these metaphysical doctrines often focus on the prospects for solving such placement problems, where a failure may justify an elimination of the thing in question or a rejection of the global doctrine. Other debates focus on the proper formulation and understanding of the doctrines (e.g., what is meant by calling an entity physical?), whether and how it might be justified (e.g., what in the development of natural science could justify the claim that everything is natural?), and its implications for science and the proper treatment of placement problems (e.g., does physicalism require all sciences to reduce to physics?).

General Overviews

While physicalism and naturalism influence an enormous amount of philosophical work, general overviews are mostly confined either to portions of larger works where the main focus lies elsewhere or entries in philosophical companions or guides. There are many of the latter to be found in the recent proliferation of handbooks, companions and similar volumes, especially those focusing on mind, metaphysics, or philosophy of science. Three of those may be spotlighted here. Stoljar’s “Physicalism” (Stoljar 2009) and David Papineau’s “Naturalism” (Papineau 2009) both appear as entries in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and the Continuum Companion to Metaphysics includes Witmer 2012 as a guide to both. By way of books, Stoljar 2010 is a less ecumenical monograph that provides an excellent introduction and overview, and Ritchie 2008 serves as a textbook addressing both epistemic and metaphysical varieties of naturalism. It is also advisable to get a partial overview of the issues surrounding physicalism by surveying the development of the mind-body problem since the middle of the 20th century, as that discussion has done much to influence the more general metaphysical discussions.

  • Kim, Jaegwon. Philosophy of Mind. 3d ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010.

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    An introductory text that focuses primarily on the mind-body problem, especially good for its discussion of type identity and functionalist accounts. May fruitfully be read with an eye toward physicalism as a general thesis about all phenomena, not just the mind.

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    • Papineau, David. “Naturalism” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2009.

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      A review of several positions associated with naturalism without an attempt to provide a definition of naturalism itself. Metaphysical issues reviewed include the status of normative, mathematical, and modal facts and whether they can be located in a natural world.

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      • Ritchie, Jack. Understanding Naturalism. Stocksfield, UK: Acumen, 2008.

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        A concise textbook on naturalism, covering both epistemic and metaphysical varieties. The fourth and fifth chapters focus primarily on metaphysics, including discussion of a non-physicalist metaphysical naturalism. A usefully ecumenical, wide-ranging work.

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        • Stoljar, Daniel. “Physicalism” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009.

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          A survey focused largely but not exclusively on questions of formulation, including attention to supervenience, identity, a priori versus a posteriori varieties of physicalism, and the key question as to how “physical” is to be understood.

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          • Stoljar, Daniel. Physicalism. New York: Routledge, 2010.

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            A systematic overview touching on all major issues regarding physicalism. Suitable as an introduction while also making a signal contribution to the literature, arguing that no formulation both makes sense of philosophical debates about physicalism while being adequate to the intuitive understanding of the doctrine.

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            • Witmer, D. Gene. “Naturalism and Physicalism.” In The Continuum Companion to Metaphysics. Edited by Neil A. Manson and Robert W. Barnard. New York: Continuum, 2012.

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              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.

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              Central Monographs

              A number of significant monographs have provided extensive, systematic treatments of physicalism; these include Post 1987, Poland 1994, Melnyk 2003, and Stoljar 2010 (the latter cited under General Overviews). Other monographs that contain substantial portions devoted to physicalism and have influenced later work on the doctrine include Papineau 1993, Chalmers 1996, Jackson 1998, and Kim 1998. Kirk 2013 (see Apriority) is a recent important monograph focused primarily on questions about concepts and apriority in formulating physicalism but includes substantial portions on other matters of formulation and might have been included in this section.

              • Chalmers, David. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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                Influential work mounting a powerful argument against physicalism from the apparent failure of consciousness to supervene on the physical. Contains clear and provocative discussions of physicalism, supervenience, the role of the a priori in assessing metaphysical claims, and a two-dimensionalist approach to necessity. A must read for philosophers of mind.

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                • Jackson, Frank. From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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                  Jackson’s John Locke lectures at Oxford from 1995. A short but very provocative book defending the role of conceptual analysis in assessing global metaphysical claims like physicalism, complete with a good discussion of supervenience and its use in formulating such claims.

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                  • Kim, Jaegwon. Mind in a Physical World: An Essay on the Mind-Body Problem and Mental Causation. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1998.

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                    Kim’s Townsend lectures at Berkeley from 1996. While focused on the mind and mental causation, nonetheless significant for the broader issue of placing apparently nonphysical entities in a physicalist world. Includes important ideas on causal exclusion, the meaning of reduction, and how the causal completeness of physics might be understood.

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                    • Melnyk, Andrew. A Physicalist Manifesto: Thoroughly Modern Materialism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

                      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511498817Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      Arguably the most comprehensive and important defense of physicalism to be published. Melnyk defends a specific formulation in terms of realization, details the links from physicalism to “reductionism,” and assesses the evidence for and against physicalism. Lengthy, dense, but clearly written, this is mandatory reading for researchers in this area.

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                      • Papineau, David. Philosophical Naturalism. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.

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                        A clear and compact book packed with interesting arguments, unified by covering both metaphysical and epistemic kinds of naturalism. A third of the book is devoted to physicalism, including arguments for the view and a rich discussion of what “physical” might mean, the completeness of physics, and strategies for “reduction.”

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                        • Poland, Jeffrey. Physicalism: The Philosophical Foundations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

                          DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198249801.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          A lengthy work focused primarily on the formulation of physicalism. Includes a review of other formulations, a positive proposal incorporating key explanatory concerns, a careful discussion of what “physical” might mean, attention to the epistemic and modal features of physicalism, and much more of a programmatic and methodological character.

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                          • Post, John. The Faces of Existence: An Essay in Nonreductive Metaphysics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987.

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                            A carefully developed approach to a comprehensive metaphysics with physicalism at the core. Post stresses the many ways in which his approach to physicalism is “nonreductive,” compatible with several things one might have thought physicalism must exclude. Supervenience and the determination of non-physical truths plays a central role.

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                            Anthologies

                            All but one of the anthologies listed below serve as a venue for new work (the exception is Moser and Trout 1995). Three of the anthologies listed here (Robinson 1993; Koons and Bealer 2010; Craig and Moreland 2000) are unified by attacks on physicalism and/or naturalism, while others are more varied.

                            • Craig, William Lane, and J. P. Moreland, eds. Naturalism: A Critical Analysis. New York: Routledge, 2000.

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                              A varied collection, useful not just for its primary arguments but for its illustration of the various ways in which “naturalism” is understood. Includes papers taking naturalism to task for failing to be able to accommodate universals, knowledge, value, free will, and theism.

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                              • De Caro, Mario, and David Macarthur, eds. Naturalism in Question. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

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                                Wide ranging papers on topics loosely grouped under the heading of naturalism, ranging over both metaphysical and epistemic varieties and including work by leading figures such as Hilary Putnam, John McDowell, and Donald Davidson. Papers are often exploratory in suggesting new approaches to or construals of naturalism.

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                                • Gasser, George, ed. How Successful Is Naturalism? Frankfurt: Ontos, 2007.

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                                  Selected contributions to the 2006 International Wittgenstein Symposium (Kirchberg am Wechsel, Austria). Papers range over both epistemic and metaphysical kinds of naturalism. Topics include theism as a contrast for naturalism, the influence of Quine on naturalism, free will and the first-person perspective, consciousness, and naturalistic approaches to cognition.

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                                  • Gillett, Carl, and Barry Loewer, eds. Physicalism and Its Discontents. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

                                    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511570797Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    A high-quality collection of papers falling into three categories: defenses and elaborations of physicalism, a variety of worries about the doctrine and both pessimistic and optimistic accounts of whether a satisfying physicalist treatment of consciousness can be had.

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                                    • Koons, Robert C., and George Bealer, eds. The Waning of Materialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

                                      DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556182.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      An anthology unified by opposition to physicalism, including several contributions from leading figures such as Tyler Burge, George Bealer, and Laurence BonJour. Three-quarters of the papers are devoted to attacks on physicalism while the remaining quarter explore alternatives, including kinds of “naturalism” that don’t require physicalism.

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                                      • Moser, Paul K., and J. D. Trout, eds. Contemporary Materialism: A Reader. New York: Routledge, 1995.

                                        DOI: 10.4324/9780203427262Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        A collection of influential papers, previously published, starting with some work addressing materialism in general and moving to those concerned with how facts about the mental, meaning, or value might or might not find a place in a physicalist world. Suitable for classroom use.

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                                        • Robinson, Howard, ed. Objections to Physicalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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                                          A somewhat older anthology of papers attacking physicalism. The kinds of attacks here given differ widely in strategy, including some that are less well represented in the literature, for example, the “grain problem” argument (originating from Wilfrid Sellars), arguments from incorrigibility, and transcendental arguments from logical laws.

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                                          • Walter, Sven, and Heinz-Dieter Heckmann, eds. Physicalism and Mental Causation: The Metaphysics of Mind and Action. Charlottesville, VA: Imprint Academic, 2003.

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                                            Contributions addressed to the implications of physicalism for the causal role of things not strictly identical with anything physical, focusing primarily on the mental as a prime candidate for such failure of identity. Includes helpful papers on the causal completeness of physics, arguments for physicalism, and the notion of realization.

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                                            Historical Background

                                            Contemporary work on physicalism is influenced more than anything else by the work done on the mind-body problem in the latter half of the 20th century. That work was often (not always) motivated by the desire to make sense of the mental as part of a fully physical world. A distinct influence is found in logical positivism, from which the term “physicalism” in fact originates. In that context, the label denoted a thesis about meaning: all meaningful statements can be translated into physical language, where physical language is that which is tied to what is intersubjectively available for empirical verification. If we turn to contemporary work on naturalism, we find one line of influence from the positivists via Willard van Orman Quine and his own “naturalism,” which is essentially epistemic in character; we also find a strand of influence in the self-declared naturalism of several American philosophers of the first half of the 20th century, including Roy Wood Sellars, John Dewey, and Ernest Nagel, where the naturalism seemed to encompass both epistemic and metaphysical commitments.

                                            Mind and Materialism in the 20th Century

                                            Work on the mind-body problem can be usefully applied to a more general physicalist thesis insofar as one thinks of the apparently nonphysical as including more than just the mental; theories of mentality developed in this literature may be cast as theories of other phenomena—biological, meteorological, economic, and so on. The readings below are selected because of their combination of influence and applicability to these more general concerns.

                                            • Boyd, Richard. “Materialism Without Reductionism: What Physicalism Does not Entail.” In Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology. Edited by N. Block. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980.

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                                              A defense of materialism significant both for its response to Kripke’s modal argument against identify mental states with physical states and for its development of a model of physicalism without commitment to either type-type or token-token psychophysical identities.

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                                              • Davidson, Donald. “Mental Events.” In Experience and Theory. Edited by L. Foster and J. W. Swanson. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1970.

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                                                Seminal paper arguing for the “token identity thesis” that every particular mental event is identical with some particular physical event. Presents a causal argument for this thesis, though it is distinct from the well-known causal argument from the completeness of physics (see The Causal Argument). Reprinted in Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.

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                                                • Feigl, Herbert. “The ‘Mental’ and the ‘Physical.’” In Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Vol. 2. Edited by H. Feigl, M. Scriven, and G. Maxwell, eds., Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1958.

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                                                  A lengthy and systematic examination of the mind-body problem. Includes useful discussions of the meanings of “mental” and “physical,” the conceptions of reduction and emergence, how empirical information might be brought to bear, and much more. A rich and valuable work.

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                                                  • Kripke, Saul. Naming and Necessity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972.

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                                                    A major text in 20th-century philosophy. The last lecture uses the apparatus previously developed regarding reference and modality to argue that the apparent contingency of links between the mental and physical cannot be explained away in any clearly acceptable fashion and that such contingency is incompatible with materialism.

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                                                    • Lewis, David. “Psychophysical and Theoretical Identifications.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 50 (1972): 249–258.

                                                      DOI: 10.1080/00048407212341301Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      Classic presentation of how functional definition might be used, taking psychological platitudes as specifying functional roles, using them to define mental terms in a way kin to theoretical terms, and using the resulting definitions to justify psychophysical identity statements.

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                                                      • Putnam, Hilary. “Psychological Predicates.” In Art, Mind and Religion. Edited by W. H. Capitan and D. D. Merrill. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1965.

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                                                        A forceful presentation of the functionalist theory that mental states are identical with functional states. Important especially for its presentation of the apparent multiple realizability of mental states. Reprinted as “The Nature of Mental States” in Putnam, Mind, Language and Reality: Philosophical Papers, Vol. 2. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

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                                                        • Smart, J. J. C. “Sensations and Brain Processes.” The Philosophical Review 68 (1959): 141–156.

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                                                          The locus classicus of the theory that mental states are identical with brain states. Important especially for its approach to questions about synonymy and the famous “objection #3.”

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                                                          Logical Positivism, Physicalism, and Naturalism

                                                          The influence of the logical positivists and the earlier naturalists on contemporary discussion is undeniable but less easy to track. The selections below are primary sources of interest, with the exception of Uebel 1992, an extensive historical study.

                                                          • Carnap, Rudolf. The Unity of Science. Translated by Max Black. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1934.

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                                                            A very short monograph on the unity of science in which Carnap sets out the program, explains its motivations, and argues that the language of physics is suited as a universal language, one in which all science can be done.

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                                                            • Carnap, Rudolf. “Logical Foundations of the Unity of Science.” In International Encyclopedia of Unified Science. Vol. 1. Edited by O. Neurath, R. Carnap, and C. Morris. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1938.

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                                                              A statement of the unity of science program incorporating some later refinements, such as the account of “reduction sentences” as partially determining meaning.

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                                                              • Dewey, John, Sidney Hook, and Ernest Nagel. “Are Naturalists Materialists?” The Journal of Philosophy 42 (1945): 515–530.

                                                                DOI: 10.2307/2019347Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                Dewey et al. respond to a critic who accuses naturalism of being committed to materialism, and argue that there is no sense of “materialism” in which the position is both controversial and an implication of naturalism.

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                                                                • Krikorian, Yervant H., ed. Naturalism and the Human Spirit. New York: Columbia University Press, 1944.

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                                                                  An anthology comprising a kind of manifesto of naturalists from the first half of the 20th century, with papers on naturalism in relation to religion, democracy, ethics, history, sociology, metaphysics, and more. Contributors include such influential philosophers as John Dewey, Sidney Hook, and Ernest Nagel.

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                                                                  • Neurath, Otto. “Physicalism: The Philosophy of the Viennese Circle.” The Monist 41 (1931): 618–623.

                                                                    DOI: 10.5840/monist19314147Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    An early document in which the term “physicalism” is proposed: “In a sense unified science is physics in its largest aspect, a tissue of laws expressing space-time linkages—let us call it: Physicalism” (p. 49). (Reprinted in Neurath, Philosophical Papers 1913–46. Edited and translated by Robert S. Cohen and Maria Neurath. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D. Reidel, 1983.)

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                                                                    • Pratt, James Bissett. Naturalism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1939.

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                                                                      A series of lectures (the Powell Lectures in Philosophy at Indiana University) reflecting on the meaning of “naturalism,” naturalism in relation to biology, evolution, the mind, morality, and religion. A very readable document usefully capturing the sense of “naturalism” in the first half of the 20th century.

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                                                                      • Uebel, Thomas E. Overcoming Logical Positivism from Within: The Emergence of Neurath’s Naturalism in the Vienna Circle’s Protocol Sentence Debate. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1992.

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                                                                        A careful historical study focusing on debates over “protocol sentences,” that is, those sentences recording basic empirical evidence, especially whether they should be given in physical or psychological language. Neurath’s “naturalism” is also an important predecessor for Quine’s epistemological naturalism.

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                                                                        Naturalism

                                                                        The literature on metaphysical naturalism is, by contrast to both the literature on physicalism and the literature on epistemic naturalism, significantly less developed or unified. The selections below are divided into those that say something useful about what metaphysical naturalism comes to (how it may be formulated) and those that focus on the alleged implications of naturalism and debates about its significance.

                                                                        Formulation

                                                                        The idea that naturalism is the thesis that everything is natural is appealing given its parallel to the idea that physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical. Some of the cited works maintain this parallel (e.g., Armstrong 1978), but not all (e.g., Price 2011). A number explicitly acknowledge the unclarity of the label and spend some time on the diagnostic task of searching for patterns in the terminological landscape (e.g., Kim 2003, Horst 2009).

                                                                        • Armstrong, David. “Naturalism, Materialism and First Philosophy.” Philosophia 8 (1978): 261–276.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1007/BF02379243Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          Formulates naturalism as the thesis that reality is nothing more than a single spatiotemporal system and materialism as the thesis that nothing but the entities of physics exist, where those are all in that same spatiotemporal system. A clear piece representing an influential approach to these views.

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                                                                          • Horst, Steven. “Naturalisms in Philosophy of Mind.” Philosophy Compass 4 (2009): 219–254.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2008.00191.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            A useful recent attempt to make systematic sense of the varieties of positions described as “naturalism” in the literature, drawing some neglected distinctions (e.g., between positive and normative claims as part of the position) and using recent work in philosophy of mind as a source of examples.

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                                                                            • Kim, Jaegwon. “The American Origins of Philosophical Naturalism.” In Philosophy in America at the Turn of the Century. Edited by R. Audi. Charlottesville, VA: Philosophy Documentation Center, 2003.

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                                                                              A look back at the naturalist ideas of the first half of the 20th century. Kim discerns both epistemic (methodological) and metaphysical strands and proposes some interpretive constraints that bring metaphysical naturalism in closer dialogue with physicalism.

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                                                                              • Kornblith, Hilary. “Naturalism: Both Metaphysical and Epistemological.” In Midwest Studies in Philosophy 19: Philosophical Naturalism. Edited by Peter A. French, Theodore E. Uehling Jr., and Howard K. Wettstein. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994.

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                                                                                A short and programmatic piece notable for its explicit attempt to relate metaphysical and epistemic versions of naturalism.

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                                                                                • Nagel, Ernest. “Naturalism Reconsidered.” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 28 (1955): 5–17.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.2307/3129209Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  An account of naturalism as the conjunction of two claims. The first asserts “the existential and causal primacy of organized matter in the executive order of nature” (p. 8) and the second that “the manifest plurality and variety of things . . . are an irreducible feature of the cosmos” (p. 9).

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                                                                                  • Price, Huw. Naturalism without Mirrors. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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                                                                                    Essays pursuing a naturalist program that focuses not on trying to show how natural facts could make true our ordinary thought and talk but rather on providing a naturalistic account of such thought and talk that incorporates nonrepresentational aspects of the practices as crucial.

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                                                                                    Significance and Debate

                                                                                    Despite the long acknowledged unclarity over just what “naturalism” might designate, the term has aroused controversy, often because of the sense that whatever the label is to pick out, it is sure to pick out views that are revolutionary or subversive of many traditional ideas about the world and our place in it. The readings below pick up on that theme in various ways.

                                                                                    • Kim, Jaegwon. “From Naturalism to Physicalism: Supervenience Redux.” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 82 (2011): 109–134.

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                                                                                      Romanell Lecture. While this paper includes additional arguments for the importance of supervenience, it is notable here for including an argument from metaphysical naturalism (construed as not entailing physicalism) and the premise that physics is causally complete to the conclusion that physicalism itself is true.

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                                                                                      • Ladyman, James, and Don Ross. Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199276196.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        Defends an epistemic thesis (the “Principle of Naturalistic Closure”) according to which we should adopt metaphysical claims only if they help unify scientific hypotheses already taken seriously by current scientific institutions as well as a specific metaphysical hypothesis dubbed “Ontic Structural Realism,” according to which there are no “self-subsistent” objects.

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                                                                                        • Plantinga, Alvin. Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812097.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Defines naturalism as the claim that there is no God, nor any person relevantly similar to God, and argues that naturalism combines with scientific results (specifically evolutionary theory) to give us reason to distrust our cognitive faculties, thus undermining those scientific results. Clearly written and controversial.

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                                                                                          • Rea, Michael. World Without Design: The Ontological Consequences of Naturalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1093/0199247609.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            A provocative book arguing that self-declared naturalists are not really committed to a thesis but rather to a policy regarding evidence, that the policy has disastrous consequences (e.g. rejecting belief in ordinary material objects) and that to avoid this one must adopt a policy itself requiring belief in the supernatural.

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                                                                                            • Rosenberg, Alexander. “Disillusioned Naturalism.” In Contemporary Philosophical Naturalism and Its Implications. Edited by Bana Bashour and Hans D. Muller. New York: Routledge, 2014.

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                                                                                              A forceful essay spelling out Rosenberg’s reasons for thinking that scientific results (especially regarding evolutionary origins) give us reason to abandon many views regarding ourselves to which we are attached—that we know moral truths, that folk psychology is roughly true, and much more.

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                                                                                              Physicalism

                                                                                              The claim that everything is physical needs clarification in at least three places. First, do we really meaning “everything,” or is the thesis implicitly restricted in some way? There has not been that much literature on this particular topic, though many seem implicitly to take the scope of physicalism to be that which Melnyk 2003 (cited under Central Monographs) makes explicit: everything that is either contingent or stands in causal relations. Second, what do we mean by calling something “physical” in the first place? Exactly how that notion is to be understood has been the subject of considerable discussion, key parts of which are represented in the first subsection below. Third, how should we understand the “is”? Do we mean that everything that exists is literally identical with a physical item? Whatever the relation between the apparently nonphysical and the strictly physical is supposed to be, it is plain at least that the former is to be in some sense nothing additional to the physical, nothing “over and above” the physical. To satisfy this demand, a number of relations have been considered, ranging from identity, supervenience, and realization, a notion originally developed in connection with functionalism. Two other matters regarding the formulation of physicalism are controversial and included below: whether it must be “reductive” in some sense, and whether the link between the physical and the rest is a priori discernible.

                                                                                              The Physical

                                                                                              What is meant by calling an object, property, event, predicate, fact or other thing “physical”? We can distinguish those approaches that make appeal in some way to physical theory and those that refrain from such appeal. The latter might appeal to features associated with paradigm examples of physical entities, such as being spatially extended. Such definitions are not popular in the contemporary literature, though they may help zero in on an account of the paradigmatically physical. The other approach appeals to some version of physics as providing an inventory of physical entities. This approach is more popular presumably because it provides a tie to the empirical science that in turn motivates physicalism in some way. Here, however, there are questions about what version of physical theory exactly should be provided: should we refer to present-day theory or some idealized version that we might hopefully think of as future physical theory? Both may seem problematic, and much of the material below addresses how to harness some kind of physical theory to give content to physicalism without running afoul of well-known problems. The third approach that has emerged is sometimes called the “via negativa”: the physical is here defined negatively, as the non-mental, for example, so that physicalism is the claim that everything is fundamentally non-mental in character. The via negativa is defended in Spurrett and Papineau 1999 and is increasingly a focus of contemporary debate. In addition to the selections listed below, important discussions of this issue are found in Papineau 1993, Poland 1994, Melnyk 2003 (all cited under Central Monographs) and Stoljar 2010 (cited under General Overviews). The argument of Melnyk 1997 below is reprised in a later form in Melnyk 2003, and Stoljar 2010 provides an especially lucid account of the issues, adding some modal twists and turns.

                                                                                              • Crane, Tim, and D. H. Mellor. “There Is No Question of Physicalism.” Mind 99 (1990): 185–206.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1093/mind/XCIX.394.185Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                A skeptical paper with significant influence. According to Crane and Mellor the position of physicalism can only be formulated if there is some construal of the physical that “explains why non-mental sciences have an ontological authority which psychology lacks” (p. 196), and they argue that no such construal can be had.

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                                                                                                • Crook, Seth, and Carl Gillett. “Why Physics Alone Cannot Define the ‘Physical’: Materialism, Metaphysics, and the Formulation of Physicalism.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (2001): 333–360.

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                                                                                                  Includes a useful criticism of the approach of Melnyk 1997 as well as that of Poland 1994 and proposes to define the physical as that which is logically contingent, not mental, and not among those things we have evidence to think are composed wholly of other contingent things.

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                                                                                                  • Melnyk, Andrew. “How to Keep the ‘Physical’ in Physicalism.” Journal of Philosophy 94 (1997): 622–637.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/2564597Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Defends the option of defining “physical” by reference to current physical theory, arguing that the attitude a physicalist should have to the doctrine is the same as that a scientific realist should have to scientific theories generally, which attitude doesn’t require thinking them likely true, only better than relevant rivals.

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                                                                                                    • Montero, Barbara. “The Body Problem.” Noûs 33 (1999): 183–200.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/0029-4624.00149Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      An extensive critique of previous proposals for understanding the “physical,” including both those that refer to some version of physical theory and those that independently identify what is meant by the physical. Mostly negative, the paper is useful for its comprehensive coverage of accounts thus far considered.

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                                                                                                      • Ney, Alyssa. “Defining Physicalism.” Philosophy Compass 3 (2008): 1033–1048.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2008.00163.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        A recent overview of the debate over how to define the physical for the purposes of formulating physicalism.

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                                                                                                        • Smart, J. J. C. “The Content of Physicalism.” The Philosophical Quarterly 28 (1978): 339–341.

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                                                                                                          A short piece addressing the worry about what version of physics is at issue in defining physicalism. Smart argues that we may lean on current theory so far as it concerns “ordinary matter,” which is unlikely to change and is all that is relevant to the mind-body problem.

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                                                                                                          • Spurrett, David, and David Papineau. “A Note on the Completeness of ‘Physics.’” Analysis 59 (1999): 25–29.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1093/analys/59.1.25Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Suggests using “non-mental” instead of “physical” to capture the relevant debates, and especially the causal argument for physicalism that makes use of the thesis that physics is causally complete. Instead, we can use the completeness of the non-mental: all non-mental effects have sufficient non-mental causes.

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                                                                                                            • Wilson, Jessica. “On Characterizing the Physical.” Philosophical Studies 131 (2006): 61–99.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1007/s11098-006-5984-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              Proposes an account of the physical that appeals both to the idea that an ideal physical theory will provide the inventory of physical entities and that no fundamentally mental entity is physical. Especially helpful in identifying the problems that must be avoided.

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                                                                                                              Identity

                                                                                                              The most straightforward way to relate that which is not obviously physical to the physical is by means of identity; we might say that every property is (identical with) a physical property, or that every event is (identical with) a physical event, and so on. The most familiar option (see Feigl 1958 and Smart 1959, cited under Mind and Materialism in the 20th Century) is to identify all properties with physical properties—that is, a “type identity” thesis, as it is types, not particular tokens, that are identified with each other. By contrast, the token identity thesis, made familiar in Davidson 1970 (cited under Mind and Materialism in the 20th Century) and Fodor 1974 (cited under Reduction), holds only that each particular event is identical with a physical event, where the types under which those tokens fall need not be related in any particular way. The token identity thesis is now widely agreed to be of little use in formulating physicalism, however. The type identity thesis, whether about events or properties, remains hotly debated. Much of that debate turns on the famous argument against the type identity thesis exemplified in Putnam 1965 (cited under Mind and Materialism in the 20th Century): is it in fact plausible to suppose that many mental or other sorts of properties not already physical in character are “multiply realizable” in the physical? If so, it seems that type identity is ruled out. The claim that multiple realization is widespread, which used to be near orthodoxy, has again become controversial in the last few decades. Most of the selections below engage that debate.

                                                                                                              • Enç, Berent. “In Defense of the Identity Theory.” Journal of Philosophy 80 (1983): 279–298.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.2307/2026499Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                Argues against a simple construal of the multiple realizability argument against type identity theories, noting complications about the range of relevant types, the construal of functionalism, and how the argument might undermine standard examples of widely accepted theoretical identities. A careful paper that anticipates many important issues.

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                                                                                                                • Gozzano, Simone, and Christopher S. Hill, eds. New Perspectives on Type Identity: The Mental and the Physical. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511687068Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  A recent collection with contributions from many leading philosophers. Topics include the cogency of the multiple realizability objection to type identity, causal and explanatory arguments for identity claims, the significance of token identity claims, and relevant neurological findings.

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                                                                                                                  • Heil, John. “Multiple Realization.” American Philosophical Quarterly 36 (1999): 189–208.

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                                                                                                                    An examination of multiple realization with a focus on the metaphysical background presumed. Defends a picture of properties as fully determinate, where a single predicate may be satisfiable in virtue of a variety of “realizers” without there being any multiply realized property.

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                                                                                                                    • Horgan, Terence. “Token Physicalism, Supervenience, and the Generality of Physics.” Synthese 49 (1981): 395–413.

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                                                                                                                      A careful paper focusing on token identity theses and how they might be understood in relation to other theses relating the physical to the rest of reality. Especially useful for its clear survey of options.

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                                                                                                                      • Shapiro, Lawrence A. “Multiple Realizations.” Journal of Philosophy 97 (2000): 635–654.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/2678460Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        Advances a number of questions about the evidence for multiple realization, drawing attention in particular to whether, given a pair of instances of a common property that differ in some physical way, those differences are relevant to the performance of the causal roles definitive of the common property.

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                                                                                                                        Supervenience

                                                                                                                        To say that one family of properties supervenes on another is to say, roughly, that if two things differ with respect to the former, they must also differ with respect to the latter; conversely, exact similarity with respect to the latter requires exact similarity with respect to the former. Since Davidson 1970 (cited under Mind and Materialism in the 20th Century), the idea that physicalism might be formulated by saying that nonphysical properties supervene on the physical properties has been found appealing. Supervenience remains a widely used tool in contemporary discussions, even if it is not seen by most as being sufficient for formulation physicalism on its own. In addition to the selections below, good discussions can be found in Chalmers 1996 (cited under Central Monographs), Jackson 1998 (cited under Central Monographs), some of the selections in Gillett and Loewer 2001 (cited under Anthologies), and Melnyk 2003 (cited under Central Monographs).

                                                                                                                        • Horgan, Terence. “From Supervenience to Superdupervenience: Meeting the Demands of a Material World.” Mind 102 (1993): 555–586.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/mind/102.408.555Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          A seminal paper arguing that a formulation of physicalism must go beyond supervenience to an additional requirement that the supervenience of nonphysical on physical entities be explainable in an appropriate fashion.

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                                                                                                                          • Kim, Jaegwon. Supervenience and Mind: Selected Philosophical Essays. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511625220Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            A collection of several influential papers on the notion of supervenience, its utility, the nature of causation, problems of causal exclusion, the metaphysics of events, and the nature of reduction. Many are part of Kim’s long campaign against there being any viable notion of “non-reductive” materialism.

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                                                                                                                            • McLaughlin, Brian. “Varieties of Supervenience.” In Supervenience: New Essays. Edited by E. Savellos and Ü. Yalçin. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511663857Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              A comprehensive paper providing an overview of all manner of supervenience relations, examining their relations to each other, relations to metaphysical claims, and potential use in various projects. A very systematic and helpful paper.

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                                                                                                                              • Post, John. “‘Global’ Supervenient Determination: Too Permissive?” In Supervenience: New Essays. Edited by E. Savellos and Ü. Yalçin. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511663857Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                A defense of the utility of global formulations of supervenience—those that compare entire worlds for similarity or difference in the relevant properties—against the worry that saying that the nonphysical is globally supervenient on the physical renders the link between physical and nonphysical properties too loose.

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                                                                                                                                • Wilson, Jessica. “Supervenience-Based Formulations of Physicalism.” Noûs 39 (2005): 426–459.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.0029-4624.2005.00508.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  A sophisticated investigation of the use of supervenience to formulate physicalism. Argues for a pessimistic conclusion, highlighting the problems that emerge given the coherence of emergentism and the live possibility that properties are in general individuated by their causal roles.

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                                                                                                                                  Functionalism and Realization

                                                                                                                                  Aside from identity and supervenience, the other leading contender for describing the relation between the physical and everything else according to physicalism is the notion of realization. The notion has its original home in connection with functionalism and on one construal, for a property P to be realized by a property R requires that P be a “second-order property”—one expressible as “the property of having some property that. . .” plays such and such a specific functional role, where R realizes P because R in fact plays that role. On another, more recent approach to realization, P is realized by R when P contributes causal powers to its instances that are a proper subset of those contributed by R. The selections below concern both kinds, as well as develop a number of important variations. Other important work on realization can be found in Boyd 1980 (cited under Mind and Materialism in the 20th Century), Poland 1994, Kim 1998, and Melnyk 2003 (the latter three cited under Central Monographs). The last of these, Melnyk 2003, makes the notion of realization central to the formulation of physicalism (“Realization Physicalism”) and contains a very careful discussion.

                                                                                                                                  • Block, Ned. “Troubles with Functionalism.” In Readings in Philosophy of Psychology. Edited by Ned Block. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980.

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                                                                                                                                    A lengthy examination of functionalism about mentality, arguing that no version can avoid both the “chauvinism” of restricting mentality to creatures much like ourselves and the “liberalism” of granting it to too many systems. Critical points here can often be extended to attempts at treating the nonphysical generally as functional.

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                                                                                                                                    • Francescotti, Robert. “Realization and Physicalism.” Philosophical Psychology 23 (2010): 601–616.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/09515089.2010.514546Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      A critical examination of accounts of realization focusing on whether the claim that the nonphysical is physically realized will, on the accounts under consideration, imply that the physical is more fundamental than the nonphysical entities realized, arguing that existent accounts should, but don’t, have this implication.

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                                                                                                                                      • Gillett, Carl. “The Dimensions of Realization: A Critique of the Standard View.” Analysis 64 (2002): 16–323.

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                                                                                                                                        Argues that realization should be understood so as to apply to cases where realizing properties are borne by individuals other than those that bear the realized property, focusing on combinations of individuals and how their properties collectively contribute causal powers as grounding the realized property.

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                                                                                                                                        • Melnyk, Andrew. “Realization and the Formulation of Physicalism.” Philosophical Studies 131 (2006): 127–155.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1007/s11098-005-5986-ySave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          A complex paper offering a detailed critical comparison between various accounts of realization and assessing them as tools for formulating physicalism, ultimately advocating the account set out in Melnyk’s A Physicalist Manifesto (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

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                                                                                                                                          • Polger, Thomas W. “Realization and the Metaphysics of Mind.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (2007): 233–259.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1080/00048400701343085Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            Criticizes the “dimensioned” account of realization defended by Carl Gillett for failing to count as cases of realization examples that have been traditionally invoked as paradigms of realization and advances an alternate account, arguing that it does a better job addressing the key issue of multiple realization.

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                                                                                                                                            • Shoemaker, Sydney. “Some Varieties of Functionalism.” Philosophical Topics 12 (1981): 83–118.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.5840/philtopics198112145Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              Systematic piece dealing with various formalities in the definition of functionalism, what counts as a realizer, how theories are transformed into role-specifications, and so on. Reprinted in Shoemaker, Identity, Cause and Mind. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

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                                                                                                                                              • Shoemaker, Sydney. Physical Realization. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                A short but dense book providing a comprehensive account of realization and its variants. Pursues the “subset” model of realization according to which a realize property contributes powers that are a proper subset of those contributed by the realizing property. Includes an account of “emergent” properties.

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                                                                                                                                                Reduction

                                                                                                                                                Does physicalism imply some sort of reductionism? Usual intuitive statements of the doctrine come close to building in a “reduction” claim, as when it is said that on physicalism, mental phenomena are “nothing over and above” physical phenomena—which sounds close to saying that they “reduce to” physical phenomena. This does not end the matter, however, since there have been ways of articulating talk of reduction—as intertheoretic explanation, as translation into other vocabulary, as finding true identities, as making redundant, and so—where it is not obvious that those notions are packed into the “nothing over and above” talk. Disputes over whether physicalism can be non-reductive have apparently been shaped to some degree by the desire to avoid reductionism, as if being reductive necessarily went along with a kind of devaluing of the phenomena being reduced, and disentangling what is really at issue in debates is not always straightforward. The selections below represent those strands of thought about physicalism and reduction that have significant influence. For some older material on reduction and physicalism, see Carnap 1938 (Logical Positivism, Physicalism, and Naturalism) and Paul Oppenheim and Hilary Putnam’s “The Unity of Science as a Working Hypothesis” (Oppenheim and Putnam 1958, cited under Other Arguments). In addition, Kim 1998 and Melnyk 2003 (both cited under Central Monographs) both include important material on the concept of reduction and its significance for physicalism.

                                                                                                                                                • Fodor, Jerry. “Special Sciences.” Synthese 28 (1974): 97–115.

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                                                                                                                                                  Argues that the kinds of special sciences are multiply realizable and that this stands in the way of bridge laws correlating special science kinds with physical kinds, thus blocking reduction. Disjunctions of various possible realizers are alleged to be unsuitable for such bridge laws. An influential paper. (Reprinted in Fodor, Representations: Philosophical Essays on the Foundations of Cognitive Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981.)

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                                                                                                                                                  • Hohwy, Jakob, and Jesper Kallestrup, eds. Being Reduced: New Essays on Reduction, Explanation, and Causation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199211531.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    An anthology of papers from leading figures in the field. Three related topics are tackled: the nature of reduction, the assessment of anti-reductionist arguments, and the “causal exclusion” problem of finding room for irreducible properties to have a causal role.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Horst, Steven. Beyond Reduction: Philosophy of Mind and Post-Reductionist Philosophy of Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195317114.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      While philosophers of mind focused on physicalism often defend reductionism in some sense, contemporary philosophy of science seems to have rejected something called reductionism. Horst explores the significance of this seeming disconnect in a wide-ranging provocative monograph.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Kim, Jaegwon. “Multiple Realization and the Metaphysics of Reduction.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (1992): 1–26.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/2107741Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        A defense of reducibility in the face of multiple realizability, presenting the antireductionist with a dilemma: either the multiple realizers don’t form a heterogeneous class and hence don’t block reduction or they do and the kind realized is not to be taken seriously in science anyway. (Reprinted in Kim, Supervenience and Mind. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.)

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                                                                                                                                                        • Loewer, Barry. “Why is There Anything Except Physics?” Synthese 170 (2009): 217–233.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1007/s11229-009-9580-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          If physicalism is true, why are there sciences other than physics? Loewer examines Fodor’s well-known 1974 argument for antireductionism to dig out a clear picture of the implied metaphysics. The picture turns out to be coherent but severely implausible. A usefully diagnostic paper which helps lay out the real options.

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                                                                                                                                                          • McLaughlin, Brian. “The Rise and Fall of British Emergentism.” In Emergence or Reduction? Edited by Ansgar Beckermann, Hans Flohr, and Jaegwon Kim. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1992.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1515/9783110870084Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            A history of emergentism that helps clarify the doctrine as well as how empirical results caused its demise. As emergence is a standard foil for reduction, this overview is instructive for thinking about what may be involved in reduction.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Melnyk, Andrew. “Can Physicalism be Non-Reductive?” Philosophy Compass 3 (2008): 1281–1296.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2008.00184.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              A useful review of attempts to formulate physicalism that advertise themselves as avoiding reductionism. Argues that no such formulations are both adequate to physicalism and avoid reduction in the core sense of implying that non-physical phenomena are in principle explainable in a synchronic and non-causal sense entirely by physical phenomena.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Van Riel, Raphael. The Concept of Reduction. New York: Springer, 2014.

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                                                                                                                                                                A book-length treatment of the concept of reduction itself, not limited to thinking about intertheoretic relations in scientific practice. Organized around a puzzle about how reduction relates to identity. Includes treatments of other accounts of reduction as well as how reduction relates to physicalism. Systematic and helpful.

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                                                                                                                                                                Apriority

                                                                                                                                                                The relevance of the a prioriin assessing metaphysical theses is a long-standing controversy, and it applies to physicalism as well. Some of the best known objections to physicalism turn on modal claims about what is possible, and there is controversy over whether these situations really are possible and how we are to adjudicate their possibility if not by a priori means. On one position, if physicalism is true, then from an exhaustive description detailing all the physical facts (plus the fact that these exhaust the basic facts), we should be able a priori, in principle, to deduce all the other facts. This is now known as a priori physicalism. For seminal statements of the view and its rationale, see Chalmers 1996 and Jackson 1998 (both cited under Central Monographs).

                                                                                                                                                                • Chalmers, David. Constructing the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Based on Chalmers’s John Locke lectures at Oxford in 2010. A sustained and systematic monograph defending the “scrutability thesis,” according to which all truths are a prioriderivable from the basic truths, thus establishing a link between general metaphysical claims and the a priori.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Chalmers, David, and Frank Jackson. “Conceptual Analysis and Reductive Explanation.” The Philosophical Review 110 (2001): 315–360.

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                                                                                                                                                                    A defense of the claim that a complete picture of the world is a priori derivable from information about its basic constituents, where methods for doing so are sketched while bracketing the question whether facts about phenomenal consciousness are to be taken as basic.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Dowell, Janice. “A Priori Entailment and Conceptual Analysis: Making Room for Type-C Physicalism.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (2008): 93–111.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/00048400701846582Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      Argues that the requirements of reductive analysis, as advertised by a priori physicalists, can be satisfied by using a posteriori semantic information, information that is not given by a priori conceptual analysis. The epistemic gap between the physical and nonphysical can then be closed without relying on such analyses.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Jackson, Frank. “On Ensuring that Physicalism is Not a Dual Attribute Theory in Sheep’s Clothing.” Philosophical Studies 131 (2006): 227–249.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1007/s11098-006-5989-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        Distinguishes between a de dicto and a de re sense of a priori determination, arguing that physicalism is committed to the de re a priori determination of non-physical facts by the physical facts on pain of being indistinguishable from a dual attribute theory with a necessitation relation.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Kirk, Robert. The Conceptual Link from Physical to Mental. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199669417.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          Formulates physicalism as “redescriptive physicalism” and argues that this requires a “logico-conceptual” necessitation of truths about the mental by truths about the physical. Distinguishes this commitment from those of a priori physicalism and standard versions of a posteriori physicalism. A rich work with many original lines of thought.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Witmer, D. Gene. “How to Be a (Sort of) A Priori Physicalist.” Philosophical Studies 131 (2006): 185–225.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1007/s11098-005-5988-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            Distinguishes between strict and liberal forms of a priori physicalism, where the latter focuses on a priori derivation of the necessitation of the non-physical by the physical from the non-modal truths, where those are given in both physical and non-physical terms, and arguing that the liberal version is better motivated.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Arguments for Physicalism

                                                                                                                                                                            While attention to how the doctrine of physicalism might be justified has lagged a bit in the literature, compared to other questions of formulation and implications, there is now a significant literature on such arguments for physicalism and their assessment. Arguments for metaphysical naturalism, by contrast, are not easy to find apart from vague appeals to the success of the natural sciences, though see D. Gene Witmer’s “Naturalism and Physicalism” (Witmer 2012, cited under General Overviews) for some brief discussion of options for such arguments. For more on arguments for physicalism (of various kinds), see Carl Gillett and Barry Loewer’s Physicalism and Its Discontents, Sven Walter and Heinz-Dieter Heckmann’s Physicalism and Mental Causation (Walter and Heckmann 2003, cited under Anthologies) as well as David Papineau’s Philosophical Naturalism and Andrew Melnyk’s Physicalist Manifesto (Gillett and Loewer 2001 and Walter and Heckmann 2003, both cited under Anthologies), Papineau 1993 and Melnyk 2003 (Central Monographs). Melnyk’s Manifesto has a very extensive chapter detailing empirical evidence for physicalism as construed in that work (as “realization physicalism”).

                                                                                                                                                                            The Causal Argument

                                                                                                                                                                            Perhaps the best known argument for physicalism is the causal argument according to which non-physical entities are causes of physical events, yet physics is causally complete—that is, all physical events are sufficiently accounted for causally by reference to purely physical causes. Hence, to avoid a noxious overdetermination, we must in some way identify the non-physical entity with the physical entities involved in the causation of that effect. This argument is closely related to what has come to be known as the “exclusion problem,” the challenge facing “non-reductive physicalists” who want to retain the ability of mental entities to be causes to explain how this is possible given their (usual) commitment to the causal completeness of physics. (The exclusion problem has been advanced in several places by Jaegwon Kim; see his collection Supervenience and Mind (Kim 1993, cited under Supervenience) and his Mind in a Physical World (Kim 1998, cited under Central Monographs].) In addition, a famous argument that is similar to (but quite importantly different from) the causal argument can be found in Davidson 1970 (cited under Mind and Materialism in the 20th Century).

                                                                                                                                                                            • Bennett, Karen. “Why the Exclusion Problem Seems Intractable, and How, Just Maybe, to Tract It.” Noûs 37 (2003): 471–497.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/1468-0068.00447Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              While addressed to the exclusion problem as a challenge to non-reductive materialists instead of the causal argument directly, Bennett’s paper is highly relevant to those attempting to discern the implications of causal efficacy for apparently non-physical entities.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Bishop, Robert C. “The Hidden Premiss in the Causal Argument for Physicalism.” Analysis 66 (2006): 44–52.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1093/analys/66.1.44Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                An attack on the causal argument, arguing that the plausible thesis of the completeness of physics must be understood as qualified by a ceteris paribus clause, which clause then requires us to add a premise to the effect that everything else is equal in the case of causation at hand.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Bunzl, Martin. “Causal Overdetermination.” The Journal of Philosophy 71 (1979): 134–150.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Argues that cases of genuine causal overdetermination do not in fact occur, examining several different cases and suggesting some diagnoses as to our temptation to describe them, mistakenly, as cases of overdetermination.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Horgan, Terence. “Supervenient Qualia.” The Philosophical Review 96 (1987): 491–520.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    A careful paper arguing that, since qualia are causally efficacious with respect to physical effects, they must be supervenient on the physical. Includes a useful discussion of the relevance of appealing to bridge laws linking the physical and mental in contrast to a stricter modal connection.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Kirk, Robert. “From Physical Explicability to Full-Blooded Materialism.” Philosophical Quarterly 29 (1979): 229–237.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      An early statement of the causal argument construed so as to conclude that truths about non-physical things that have physical effects are entailed by the physical truths. A usefully clear and focused paper.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Koksvik, Ole. “Conservation of Energy is Relevant to Physicalism.” Dialectica 61 (2007): 573–582.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.1746-8361.2007.01124.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        Argues that the conservation of energy is relevant to defending physicalism by means of a kind of causal argument. A useful paper especially because of the focus not just on causation intuitively understood but the specific idea of energy transfer.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Sturgeon, Scott. “Physicalism and Overdetermination.” Mind 107 (1998): 411–432.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/mind/107.426.411Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          Argues that the completeness of physics is plausible only for a restricted, quantum mechanical sense of “physical event,” where it is not clear that mental or other non-physical entities have effects in that sense, as opposed to physical effects in a broader, macroscopic sense of “physical.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Witmer, D. Gene. “Locating the Overdetermination Problem.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (2000): 273–286.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1093/bjps/51.2.273Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            Defends the causal argument from Sturgeon 1998 by arguing that our investigation of the relevant, highly theoretical kind of quantum mechanical events gives us reason to think that physical events in the ordinary, macroscopic sense are themselves nothing over and above the former sort.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            Other Arguments

                                                                                                                                                                                            After the causal argument, perhaps the next most influential argument for physicalism is inductive in character: we have many cases of successfully showing how various phenomena, not obviously physical in character, are in fact ultimately physical, and this gives us reason to generalize to all phenomena, including more controversial cases. To develop this argument one needs to articulate just what is meant by showing how some phenomenon is ultimately physical. On one simple approach, we appeal to the notion of reduction, arguing that since chemistry, biology, astronomy, and every science not involving mentality has already been reduced to physics, we should expect psychology and sociology to reduce as well. (See Oppenheim and Putnam 1958 for a presentation of this argument. See also McLaughlin 1992, cited under Reduction, for the history of how anti-reductionist “emergentist” approach was developed and eventually came to an end.) Strategies using the notion of reduction are hampered, however, by the controversies over what “reduction” comes to and whether any such history of triumphant reductions can plausibly be claimed. (See especially Horst 2007, cited under Reduction, for this worry.) Another development of the inductive argument can be found in Melnyk 2003 (cited under Central Monographs), where evidence is provided that we have identified many properties not themselves physical with functionally defined properties that are always physically realized. Only the first of the selections below fits the pattern of enumerative induction; the others offer a variety of distinct argumentative strategies.

                                                                                                                                                                                            • Loewer, Barry. “An Argument for Strong Supervenience.” In Supervenience: New Essays. Edited by E. Savellos and Ü. Yalçin. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511663857Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              Argues that properties detectable by potential physical effects must be supervenient on the physical. Given the completeness of physics, counterfactuals regarding physical conditions are fixed by the actual physical facts; so, detectability requires making a difference to those physical facts. (Compare the related “manifestability argument” in Papineau 1993, cited under Central Monographs.)

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • McLaughlin, Brian P. “Consciousness, Type Physicalism, and Inference to the Best Explanation.” Philosophical Issues 20 (2010): 266–304.

                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1533-6077.2010.00192.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                Advocates the strategy of arguing that M = P, where M and P are mental and physical types, on the grounds that this identity best explains the empirically observable fact that M and P are correlated. An extensive paper thoroughly defending the strategy against objections raised by Jaegwon Kim.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Melnyk, Andrew. “Being a Physicalist: How and (More Importantly) Why.” Philosophical Studies 74 (1994): 221–241.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1007/BF00989804Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Identifies the “problem of the many sciences” as the problem of explaining how the various sciences relate to each other. The argument for physicalism is then developed by way of comparing different possible accounts and showing that a physicalist account is superior. Related to but distinct from the causal argument.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Oppenheim, Paul, and Hilary Putnam. “The Unity of Science as a Working Hypothesis.” In Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Vol. 2. Edited by H. Feigl, et al. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1958.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    A classic piece that defines the unity of science and advances evidence for the eventual reducibility of all science to physics by recounting various past successes in reduction.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Schiffer, Stephen. “Physicalism.” In Philosophical Perspectives. Vol. 4, Action Theory and Philosophy of Mind. Edited by James Tomberlin. Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      Criticizes an argument proposed by Hartry Field according to which the fact that our explanatory and predictive practices using both physical and non-physical terminology fail to conflict but instead “mesh” with each other requires explanation, and given the completeness of physics, a reductive explanation is required.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      Challenges and Alternatives

                                                                                                                                                                                                      While physicalism and/or metaphysical naturalism clearly enjoy the status of a majority view in contemporary philosophy, it is far from uncontroversial. The literature on challenges to physicalism and/or naturalism is enormous. The selections below only represent a small sample of different kinds of dissenting positions. Perhaps the best known challenge to these doctrines arises from consciousness—more specifically, phenomenal consciousness, understood as the “what it is like” aspect of experience. Saul Kripke’s brief but powerful argument against identify conscious states with brain states in his Naming and Necessity (Kripke 1972, cited under Mind and Materialism in the 20th Century) has been very influential; Chalmers 1996 (cited under Central Monographs) represents a very sophisticated and elaborated successor to that challenge. Four of the readings given below are devoted to the challenge from consciousness: Robinson 2004, Freeman and Strawson 2006, Alter and Walter 2007, and Ludlow, et al. 2004. Important works with discussions of challenges and alternatives not included below include Robinson 1993, Koons and Bealer 2010, and Craig and Moreland 2000 (all cited under Anthologies).

                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Alter, Torin, and Sven Walter, eds. 2007. Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge: New Essays on Consciousness and Physicalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195171655.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Extremely high-quality anthology of original essays on varieties of arguments against physicalism that appeal to phenomenal consciousness, including both defenses against those arguments and new elaborations of them. Papers include sophisticated work on the phenomenal concepts, the explanatory gap, and presuppositions linking semantic and metaphysical claims.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Dupré, John. The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          An influential defense of metaphysical pluralism. The majority of the book is devoted to detailed criticisms of common assumptions about essences, reduction, and causality, assumptions that on Dupré’s view sustain a mistaken belief in the unity of science.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Foster, John. The Immaterial Self. New York: Routledge, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            A rigorous and systematic argument for interactionist substance dualism, including clear and helpful responses to important arguments for physicalism.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Freeman, Anthony, and Galen Strawson, eds. Consciousness and Its Place in Nature: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism? Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              A collection featuring a provocative target article by Galen Strawson arguing that physicalism can only be sustained by reconceiving the physical as including fundamentally mental elements, with critical commentary by eighteen philosophers and a lengthy response from Strawson.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Göcke, Benedikt Paul, ed. After Physicalism. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2012.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                A recent anthology of papers critical of physicalism, where several are not just negative but focus as well on developing a positive account of alternative views.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Ludlow, Peter, Yujin Nagasawa, and Daniel Stoljar, eds. 2004. There’s Something About Mary: Essays on Phenomenal Consciousness and Frank Jackson’s Knowledge Argument. Cambridge, MA: MIT.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  According to the knowledge argument, one could know all the physical facts yet still have more to learn upon gaining new experience, which allegedly shows there to be new facts beyond the physical. A very useful collection including the original papers and a good variety of later responses.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Robinson, William S. Understanding Phenomenal Consciousness. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511498886Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A defense of “Qualitative Event Realism,” a form of epiphenomenalist dualism according to which there are nonphysical episodes of phenomenal consciousness.

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