Emergence not as the antithesis of physical reduction, more the realization every level can be wildly different. This view of emergence supports reduction, that things are just quarks and fields after all. But it also goes against establishing anything as fundamental, a necessary condition for physicalism. It is a double edged sword that may also mean whatever we think is fundamental can be equally emergent from wildly different elements.

This reflects physic’s changing theories and what those theories take as real. Is it fields, a correspondence to a different dimensional makeup like ADS/CFT, strings, causal sets, constructors of constructor theory, or loop quantum, and what is the status of the wave function?

So essentially I’m wondering, with the demonstrated ability for emergence to continually cast the fundamental into wildly different constituents, and a keystone piece of physics, the wave function (which is tied to defining almost everything else, like fields and particles) is treated operationally or in dispute, do any philosophers still define physicalism?

I found the SEP https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism to be lacking in actually defining what physicalism entails. To show I’m not alone, Chomsky has said there has been no definition of physics for several hundred years (guessing since Newton?)

  • 1
    I do not think ontological foundationalism is a necessary condition for physicalism, Quine would be an obvious example of anti-foundationalist physicalist. One can accept that ontology, as presented by best physical theories of the day, admits conceptually dissimilar descriptions each more useful for its purposes, and is subject to revision, and still hold that everything can be explained in physical terms. And if you hold that "physical" theories are subject to revision there is no point defining "physicalism" other than vaguely.
    – Conifold
    Jan 31, 2022 at 23:57


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .