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mind,_body,_and_structure_chapters_7-8 - William Jaworski...

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William Jaworski Fordham University 135 Chapter 7 Nonreductive physicalism Synopsis The reductivist worldview dominated philosophy of mind for many years, but the multiple-realizability argument changed that. In conjunction with functionalism, a theory based on a computational model of psychological discourse, the multiple-realizability argument inspired a new type of nonreductive physicalist theory. Nonreductive physicalism soon became the new orthodoxy in philosophy of mind, and although it has been subjected to criticism, it remains the most popular type of physicalism today. Like physicalism of any sort, nonreductive physicalism claims that everything can be exhaustively described and explained in purely physical terms. There are nevertheless many diverse ways of describing physical reality that satisfy a range of diverse interests – interests different from those satisfied by fundamental physics. The categories of psychological discourse, economic discourse, biological and even chemical and atomic discourse are more abstract than those of fundamental physics, and because they are more abstract, they are capable of satisfying descriptive and explanatory interests that fundamental physics cannot satisfy. As a result, fundamental physics is incapable of taking over the descriptive and explanatory roles they play. These forms of discourse are thus irreducible to physics in the way reductivists had always
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William Jaworski Fordham University 136 supposed – not because there are nonphysical individuals, properties, or events, but because we have special interests that cannot be satisfied using the vocabulary of physics. The burden for nonreductive physicalists is to explain how sciences other than physics can lay claim to describing reality if everything is physical. If everything is physical, for instance, how can psychological discourse correspond to reality if its categories do not correspond to those of physical theory? For the most part, nonreductivists have answered this question in one of two ways. Some have claimed that mental phenomena are realized by physical phenomena; others have claimed that mental phenomena supervene on physical phenomena. Both answers face challenges. Supervenience physicalism, for instance, does not provide a metaphysical basis to explain supervenience relations. Realization physicalism is sufficiently metaphysical, but because it is based on functionalism, it is liable to the problems facing the latter. These include worries that functionalism ends up attributing mental states to systems that do not have them. Teleological functionalists have tried to meet this worry by placing limits on the kinds of systems that are capable of realizing psychological descriptions. In addition, however, the Chinese room argument suggests that functionalism cannot adequately accommodate a public conception of mental phenomena, and other arguments suggest it cannot adequately accommodate a private conception of mental phenomena either. In addition, there are
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mind,_body,_and_structure_chapters_7-8 - William Jaworski...

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