An account of the basis of physicalism

David Papineau’s account of Naturalism in the SEP bases the whole doctrine on the “causal closure principle”, that is:

[A]ll physical effects can be accounted for by basic physical causes (where ‘physical’ can be understood as referring to some list of fundamental forces).

He further claims that “Scarcely any contemporary philosophers are prepared to query this thesis, even those who wish to resist the apparent physicalist consequences”.

One would certainly hope that no one doubts the thesis, since, when we substitute Papineau’s own definition of the physical, the principle is this:

All the effects found on some list of fundamental forces can be accounted for by causes found on a list of fundamental forces.

1 Comment

  1. RP said,

    May 28, 2013 at 8:55 am

    It is easy (if ignorant enough) to take issue with, “All the effects found on some list of fundamental forces can be accounted for by causes found on a list of fundamental forces.” because there is no way to distinguish causes from effects. At minimum there has to be an explanation on one of the lists for before and after, and maybe also for here and there. As far as I know (not very far) the fundamental forces on any list do not explain time and space, but assume them. There has to be a way to distinguish them though so as to put them on one list and not the other.

    Maybe, however, they mean something else by cause and effect, something where before and after is irrelevant. As with, for example, vacuum, which I read somewhere means lowest energy state and not as with most people, nothing. Wasn’t it in Alice that someone said words mean what I say they mean?


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