I was wondering if there is anyone here who could recommend specific books or information specific resources from assorted philosophers on the topic of materiality and physicality? I've finished reading ''Metaphysics An Introduction'' by Alyssa Ney and was rather excited to meet the section on material objects but was disappointed by the lack of either specific philosophers' writings or general historical overviews in the further recommendation reading section. Where should I go after this for further investigation? I do hope dearly to better solidify my terms in future discussion with a solid grounding as to what the 'material' or 'physical' labels mean or entail generally.

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    Standard online resource is SEP, see Physicalism and Ordinary Objects. They link to multiple other surveys, and at the end of each there is a long bibliography.
    – Conifold
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 5:54
  • I have looked at the article on physicalism but only in small douses with but subtle recollections. The one called ordinary objects, I feel is rather misleading and should be called rather blatantly "Material Objects" or just "Materialism" because I had looked on SEP and came to the conclusion that they just didn't have an article on it. :( I now feel bad about my common sense. . . Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


I think you'll find - you may well have done so already - that 'materialism' is the less frequently used term nowadays. It never really recovered from its association with pre-20th century conceptions of matter as 'inert substance shaped and formed by external sources' - or in Newton's words as of consisting of 'solid, massy, impenetrable, moveable particles' (Paul Davies & John Gribbin, The Matter Myth, SBN 10: 0140134263 / ISBN 13: 9780140134261, published by Penguin, 1992 : 5). This doesn't rule out revised ideas of the nature of matter, of course.

'Physicalism' now means predominantly, I think, that whatever exists can be described in terms of the 'physical' sciences, using ideas of energy, space/ time, possibly causation if only in probabilistic terms, and laws of nature. It is not that the existence of the material world has been rejected but that conceptions of matter have been refined to include not just the 'atoms' that the old materialism was concerned with but sub-atomic particles and the surpassingly strange micro-world of the quantum.

Most of the best new material is going to have 'physicalism' and its variants in the title. Here are some suggestions. I have been careful to offer a spread of views :

Duncan, Steven M., Material Things: An Alternative to Physicalism, ISBN 10: 1539353974 / ISBN 13: 9781539353973. Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.

Steven Merle Duncan, Facing Reality: A Challenge to Physicalism, SBN 10: 1535386533 / ISBN 13: 9781535386531 Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.

B.P. Gocke, ed., After Physicalism, ISBN 10: 0268030006 / ISBN 13: 9780268030001 Published by University of Notre Dame Press, United States, 2012.

Jaegwon Kim, Physicalism, or Something Near Enough, ISBN 10: 0691133859 / ISBN 13: 9780691133850 Published by Princeton University Press, 2008

Frank Close, The Void, SBN 10: 0199225907 ISBN 13: 9780199225903 Published by OUP Oxford (2007)

Corbi, Josep E., Minds, Causes and Mechanisms: A Case Against Physicalism, ISBN 10: 0631218025 ISBN 13: 9780631218029. Published by John Wiley & Sons (2000)

J. D. Trout (Ed.); Paul K. Moser (Ed.), Contemporary Materialism: A Reader, ISBN 10: 0415108640 / ISBN 13: 9780415108645 Published by Routledge, 1995

K. V. Wilkes, Physicalism (Studies in Philosophical Psychology), ISBN 10: 0391007416 / ISBN 13: 9780391007413. Published by Humanities Press, 1978. (1978 is a long while back but the book retains a good deal of value.)

  • Thank you extensively, I will investigate feverishly and hopefully get back to you upon exhausting the intellectual faculties present here that do so present themselves as readily attainable. Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 16:20
  • I've just ordered "Material things: An alternative to Physicalism" and a book not on the list called "Physicalism (New problems in Philosophy)" by Daniel Stoljar. Can't wait!! Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 17:11
  • Thanks you : your enthusiasm is so clear. I do hope you get some extra material that will whet your appetitie even more. Best - Geoff
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 18:55
  • Appreciation and mild admiration is sent your way. Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 21:28
  • And received with gratitude !
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 21:34

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