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The case against physicalism

The philosophical apologist

What is physicalism?

Physicalism is the view that everything real is ultimately something physical. A more traditional term often used interchangeably is materialism – the view that everything is matter – but this term is used less frequently now that we know forces such as gravity are not strictly material.

Physicalism does not deny that many things such as consciousness seem non-physical. But in the end physicalists usually claim such things supervene in some way on the physical, or can be reduced to physical entities. What does it mean to supervene? If you recall the old dot-matrix printers, think of how they printed pictures as a series of dots. The picture supervenes on the physical dots. If two pictures have an identical dot pattern, the pictures must be identical. Similarly, physicalism entails that apparently non-physical entities supervene on physical properties.

It should be noted that there are various physicalist views such as token and type physicalism, and reductive and non-reductive physicalism. There are also different conceptions on what it means for something…

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Guest Post: When is a person?

Science and Belief

baby-605588_1920At what point in human development can we recognise the presence of another person like us?  It’s an age-old question which cannot be avoided, and I’ve been interested in the recent discussion about this on this blog.  Each one of us comes to this question from a different perspective, so I would like to offer some reflections from the perspective of a baby doctor. As a neonatologist I have cared for many tiny and fragile babies, some as small as 22 weeks of gestation and weighing less than 500g.

What is immediately apparent is that, even at extreme degrees of prematurity, babies are conscious and responsive to stimuli. In particular it is the face that seems to be the focus of their receptivity. The baby responds to touch on the face, will suck on a finger tip, responds to sounds and to light and the facial expression changes in response…

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