Not old... but not that new either: Explicability, Emergence and the Characterisation of Materialism

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Supervenience formulations of 'physicalism' have come under attack for being unable to distinguish 'physicalism' from 'British emergentism' and 'ethical non-naturalism'. An appeal to the notion of one level of properties explicating another is said to be necessary. In response, I argue that strong supervenience with the first operator that of nomological necessity and the second that of metaphysical necessity does the job. I consider the claim that materialism formulated in my favored way does not capture the asymmetric dependence of the broadly physical on the physical as identified by physics. I argue that this failure does not undermine the formulation. Finally, I consider the claim that my formulation fails to capture other distinctive features of physicalism, for instance, that the only basic causal properties are basic physical properties and that the only fundamental laws are the laws of physics. I present a dilemma. Understand 'fundamental' one way and my proposal captures the idea. Understand it another way and it's not essential to the proper characterization of physicalism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhysicalism and Mental Causation
Subtitle of host publicationThe Metaphysics of Mind and Action
EditorsSven Walter, Heinz-Dieter Heckman
Place of PublicationCharlottesville
PublisherImprint Academic
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)0-907-84547-9
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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