Physicalism without identity




Physicalism, identity, supervenience, functionalism, realization


The paper presents and discusses the most influential attempts to characterize physicalism without postulating relations of identity between the physical and the prima facie non-physical. The first section deals with a possible criticism that these attempts are misguided, since they contradict the physicalist slogan “everything there is is physical.” In the second section, I elucidate the different formulations of the physicalist supervenience claim, and argue that none of them consists in an adequate characterization of physicalism. Three reasons are given in favor of this conclusion: their compatibility with forms of dualism (or pluralism); the fact that the supervenience relation is left unexplained; and Kim’s causal exclusion argument, which asserts that merely supervenient entities (i.e., the ones that are not in identity relations with the strictly physical entities) must be epiphenomenal. The third section presents the general features of another identity-independent attempt to characterize physicalism, namely realization physicalism. According to this view, tokens of prima facie non-physical types are realized by tokens of strictly physical types performing the functional roles that specify the nature of the former. The third section also shows how the realization physicalism deals with the objections that make the physicalist supervenience claims inadequate for characterizing physicalism.

Recebido: 20/8/2017
Aceito: 30/11/2018


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Biografia do Autor

Rodrigo A. dos S. Gouvea, Universidade Federal Fluminense UFF/RJ

Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Fluminense Federal University (UFF).