WEAK PHYSICALISM AND SPECIAL SCIENCE ONTOLOGY

James Ladyman

Abstract


Naturalists take science at face value and hence ought to be ontologically committed to the entities posited by the various special sciences. According to the Eleatic principle, causal efficacy is necessary condition for existence. This principle is plausible for concrete entities and so naturalists must attribute genuine causal powers to special science ontologies. However, physicalism is usually taken to require a commitment to the causal completeness of the physical world, and so a generalization of Kim's causal exclusion argument threatens the special sciences with the dilemma of epiphenomenalism versus reductionism. The former is incompatible with the Eleatic principle and so motivates eliminativism about the ontologies of the special sciences, whereas the latter is widely held to be untenable. Hence, there is a tension between physicalism and naturalism. However, ironically among philosophers of physics there is a widespread view that there is no causation in fundamental physics, suggesting the physicalism must be understood without reference to causal completeness. In this paper I argue that a weak form of physicalism can be combined with an independently motivated account of special science ontology to dissolve the generalized causal exclusion problem and harmonise naturalism and physicalism.

Keywords


20th century philosophy; ontology; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; emergence; ontology; physicalism; reduction; structural realism

Full Text: PDF

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.