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mind,_body,_and_structure_chapters_5-6 - William Jaworski...

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William Jaworski Fordham University 79 Chapter 5 The physicalist worldview Synopsis Physicalism claims that everything is physical; everything can be exhaustively described and explained by the natural sciences, ultimately physics. Physicalists differ over the legitimacy of psychological descriptions and explanations. Retentive physicalists claim that psychological categories will correspond to something in a complete scientific account of human behavior. Eliminative physicalists deny this. When scientists finally develop a complete account of human behavior, we will not retain psychological categories as retentivists claim, we will instead eliminate them in favor of the categories of the new scientific account. Physicalism in general is motivated by confidence in the power of science. The argument for physicalism derives from past scientific success. In the past, whenever people have tried to explain phenomena by appeal to nonphysical entities, their attempts have always failed, and by contrast, physical accounts have always succeeded. We thus have some reason to suppose that all nonphysical accounts will fail, and that physical accounts will succeed. The argument’s principal liability is that it is merely inductive. It does not purport to prove that physicalism is true; it merely advances evidence in its favor.
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William Jaworski Fordham University 80 Arguments against physicalism include Hempel’s dilemma which claims that physicalism is either false or else lacking in content. In other words, either it is false to say that everything is physical, or else we do not have a clear enough sense of what it means to say that everything is physical to be able to evaluate that claim. Physicalists have several ways of responding to this argument. Another argument against physicalism, the knowledge argument, claims that physicalism is false because it is unable to accommodate a private conception of mental phenomena. If physicalism is true, then all facts are physical facts. But, says the argument, not all facts are physical facts; in particular, facts about consciousness and subjectivity cannot be expressed in physical terms. There are several physicalist responses to this argument as well. Physicalism remains the most popular theory of mind today. Physicalism Physicalism claims that everything is physical – everything can be given an exhaustive description and explanation in principle in purely physical terms, using nothing but the conceptual resources of physics. Physicalism is far and away the most popular form of monism, and over the past seventy years it has also been the most popular theory of mind in general, and has generated the largest body of literature. Because it occupies such an important place in philosophy of mind, four chapters will be devoted to it. The goal of this chapter is to describe the general physicalist worldview, and in the subsequent three chapter, I describe different varieties
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