PHIL 101 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Physicalism, Reductionism
Course CodePHIL 101
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•What kinds of things exist?
•What is fundamental?
•Everything that is or could exist is ultimately physical in nature
Why be a Physicalist?
The Argument from Explanation
1. Our physical theories are highly successful at predicting and controlling our
experience of the world
2. The best explanation of why physical theory is so successful is that it correctly
describes the nature of reality
3. If our physical theories correctly describe the nature of reality then physicalism is
4. Therefore, physicalism is true
Causal Closure: every event that has a cause has only a physical cause (or physical
Alternatives to Physicalism
•Dualism: physical things exist but some things that do (or could) exist are not (or are not
ultimately) physical in nature (ex. Minds, souls, God)
•Idealism: everything that is or could exist is ultimately mental in nature
Deducing, explaining, or otherwise showing a dependence relation to exist between one
set of properties, facts, or concepts, and other privileged set of properties, facts or
•Reduce features of conscious experience to matter/energy organized according to
physical laws (reduction base)
oCan we deduce, explain, or otherwise show that conscious experience depends
solely on matter/energy operating under physical laws?
oIf the answer is yes then we have reduced or given a reduction of conscious
experience in terms of physics
The "Hard Problem" of Consciousness: Why do the physical processes that characterize life
result in conscious experience?
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