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It is with hesitance this essay begins by examining the question literally, however such a broad topic invites interrogation if it is to make any progress. To answer the question I will focus on expounding physicalism as a theory, challenging both its philosophical implications and asking if it there is anything it cannot explain. I will delineate if we can ever be rationally justified in subscribing to physicalism despite its contentious standing within philosophical method. Physicalism is an endearing hypothesis in that it is comprehensive, that it is fundamental and that it is unified in its attempts to explain everything in terms of itself, or rather in terms of physics. The magnitude of the benefits in this approach are huge and establishes Physicalism as an all encompassing and universal approach. In this essay it is going to be understood to posit the following: that in any two sit uations there can be no difference unless there is a difference in the physical descript ions of either situation. This also implies the notion of supervenience, which will be returned to shortly. How are we to understand Physicalism? Even the very notion of physics itself pertains to an uncertain concept. It is ridiculous to posit contemporary physics as fact for a number of reasons. Firstly there are massive contingencies in the modern theory; the very notion of modern theory itself proving hard to imbue with any philosophical capacity when it cannot easily be located amongst a plenitude of unresolved discrepancies. Secondly, the chronicling of physics historically proves that it is developed and constantly refined and must be presumed to continue to do so, especially in light of its internal failings as a cohesive representation of the universe. So then, must we appeal to physicalism in the ideal sense? Should we say that we know enough about physics to assume some kind of complete physics that allows us to begin to make claims about the world?Both of these options seem overtly un-philosophical, however this essay is going to be charitable and accept tentatively and with due appreciation of the controversy physicalism as an empirical hypothesis. Motivated, it must be suspected, by the overwhelming success of physics in technological and scientific advancements. Returning then to the notion of supervenience, specifically we will be concerned with the supervenience of the mental on the physical. The mental will supervene on the physical if indeed it can be argued that any change in the mental is translatable or somehow reducible to a physical change; for instance the idea of consciousness in fact being a neuro-chemical reaction. David Papineau commits himself to a supervenience stemming from his subscription to the completeness of physics: that all physical events are determined entirely by physical laws i. From this he finds it easy to argue for the
Ptolemy Raven Spare
Here he posits the possibility of everything being reducible to physics. that whenever a mental event causes another (detectable) event it does so purely in virtue of its physical features. To (very) briefly recap the argument. The brand of supervenience he endorses is of a strong supervenience in that physical characteristics fix mental characteristics across all possible worlds iiconforming with the view that in any two situations there can be no difference unless there is a difference in the physical descriptions of either situation. however it seems plausible that a mental property could stem from a very different physical realization.g. His second and more difficult task is proving that there can be no form of supervenience physicalism that is not reductive. Returning to the question. or even removed mentality entirely from the world. whereas some events are both mental and physical. iiiKim wants to extinguish this theory as possible. Anomalous Monism resembles materialism in its claim that all events are physical. Jaegwon Kim however aspires to take physicalism a step further in The Myth of Nonreductive Materialism . Assuming this complete idea of physics can be trusted. formulating a counter argument from Davidson s position that mental events enter into causal relations. iv Kim proves primarily that anomalous monism is indeed in truth eliminativist. first asserted by Putman in response to Place s revolutionary Identity Theory of the Mind is the most threatening objection to a reductive physicalism. it seems one can be at least empirically justified in believing in some sense that the world is indeed physical. So all events must be physical. usually considered essential to materialism. An example given by Putnam is that many different species experience the phenomenon of pain: the physical-chemical state in question[e. but rejects the thesis. but in this structure mentality is completely irrelevant: you would not disturb a single causal relation if you randomly and arbitrarily reassigned mental properties to events. Each mental event therefore has a causal relation. appealing pleasingly to Ockham s razor. Reduction equates an asymmetric dependence relationship between the mental and the physical. Firstly he targets Anomalous Monism Davidson s championing physicalist yet anti-reductionist theory of the mind. Papineau s argument seems to plausibly explain the world including mentality in a suitably unified sense. that mental phenomena can be given purely physical explanations. and be linked with their corresponding individual physical event.principle of no independent causal powers. Thus the mental laws must abide by the physical laws of causality. Causal relations must appeal to laws. but each reducible event can be explained in terms of mental or physical. Davidson claims that mental events are identical to physical events. pain] must be a possible state of a Ptolemy Raven Spare 2 . but there are no such laws about the mental. The multiple realization argument.
How practically can we define the reduction across all species(even having to account for unobservable instances such as aliens)? Must the definition of pain be questioned as one that is understood behaviorally or functionally? The magnitude of the difficulty of this task cannot be undermined.¶vii This in both a logical and common sense is true.mammalian brain. a reptilian brain. however the ontological reduction remains alluring. It is quite another to hold that they are going to be superseded inter alia by mental categories.¶vi Kim I think is justified in his rendering of the problem as an epistemological one rather than ontological. that only means that we shall have multiple local reductions of psychology. Papineau subscribes in his essay to the completeness of physics. Equally valid claims can be made about the world from an idealist perspective. It is one thing to hold that the categories of currentphysics are going to be superseded. however it seems fundamentally possible to understand pain as a complicated disjunctive property. that physics is a complete and determined school of science. which in itself is merely empirically justified speculation. Yet they seemunlikely. and fundamental apprehension of the world available. how can Papineau base his argument for supervenience of such a flagrant contingency? Papineau has already prepared his answer. How then can we answer the original question? It may appear somewhat unsatisfactory to appeal to physicalism as contingent theorizing but equally ridiculous to posit it boldly as a philosophical credence. How then.µIf psychological states are multiply realized. Integral is the realization that physicalism must be represented as a hypothesis because it cannot (for now and in the discernibly foreseeable future) overcome radical skepticisms. but all the ways remain fundamentally physical realizations. and I agree that if they obtain then the mental won't supervene on the non-mental. the harder problem for him is explaining how the rudimentary correlation between physical properties and pain is illuminating in any way. but it is the destiny of physicalism to pioneer itself as the most viable unified. Ptolemy Raven Spare 3 . a mollusc's brain (octopuses are mollusca. despite any rigid nomological proof can physicalism remain as a viable hypothesis to adopt? T.viii Supervenience cannot be proven outside of a physicalist framework. to return to the question.v Can physicalism not accommodate for these multiple realizations of pain? The concept of pain can indeed be realized from different physical states. comprehensive. It doesn¶t seem to convey much understanding of pain as qualia over some sort of blanket behavioral response. Crane in his reactionary essay µWhy Indeed: Papineau on Supervenience¶ takes a more austere approach to supervenience. The argument here descends into one of pragmatics. in relation to future physics heralding the outside discovery of the mental distinct form the physical: µI concede that we cannot exclude these possibilities absolutely. Crane brandishes this assertion as unjustifiable: µPapineau must show why PHYSICSwill not incorporate mental laws and properties. and certainly feel pain)¶.
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J. 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1990) p. 50. 52 vi J. Vol. Putnam.J. Papineau. The Myth of Nonreductive Materialism. D. Vol. 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1990) p. Why Supervenience? Analysis. 63. No. . Brains and Behaviour. Why Indeed? Papineau on Supervenience. Chalmers Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary readings (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2002) p. Vol. Kim. 66 ii D. Crane. 3 (American Philosophical association 1989) p. Vol. Kim. 3 (American Philosophical association 1989) p. No. 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1990) p.Bibliography i D. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association. No. 69 iii D. Analysis. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press) p. Vol. No. Chalmers Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary readings (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2002) p. Papineau. 51. 34-35 v H. Why Supervenience? Analysis. 50. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association. Vol. 63. Davidson. 50. No. The Myth of Nonreductive Materialism. Mental Events. 69 Ptolemy Raven Spare 5 . No. Why Supervenience? Analysis. 39 vii T. Papineau. 119 iv J. 35 viii D.
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