Redefining Physicalism

Topoi 37 (3):513-522 (2018)
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Philosophers have traditionally treated physicalism as an empirically informed metaphysical thesis. This approach faces a well-known problem often referred to as Hempel’s dilemma: formulations of physicalism tend to be either false or indeterminate. The generally preferred strategy to address this problem involves an appeal to a hypothetical complete and ideal physical theory. After demonstrating that this strategy is not viable, I argue that we should redefine physicalism as an interdisciplinary research program seeking to explain the mental in terms of the physical that encompasses the physical sciences, the psychological and brain sciences, and philosophy. Redefining physicalism in this way improves upon previous reconstructive accounts while avoiding the indeterminacy associated with orthodox forms of futurist physicalism.



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Guy Dove
University of Louisville