Psychophysicality: rethinking the physicalist foundations of the mind/body problem

Nightshade, Cleodhna P.A. (2001) Psychophysicality: rethinking the physicalist foundations of the mind/body problem. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In this thesis, I shall examine the question of physicalism through two papers criticising the formulation of the doctrine. In the first chapter, I discuss Tim Carne's and D.H. Mellor's influential (1990) There Is No Question of Physicalism, in which they argue that there are no real criteria by which the science of psychology can be separated from the paradigmatically physical sciences, and so no principled reason to suppose that the predicates of pyschology do not describe real elements of the world's ontology whereas those of physics do. I shall explain why I find their arguments unconvincing, and to show how some of the reasons they consider not to support the noncontinuity of psychology with physics actually can support the distinction.

Crane and Mellor take physicalism to be an epistemological doctrine, according to which the empirical world "contains just what a true and complete physical science would say it contains". Physicalism can, however, be taken as a metaphysical doctrine, and indeed I think that many modern physicalists do take it this way. In his (1998) What Are Physical Properties?, Chris Daly argues that no principled distinction can be drawn between physical and nonphysical properties, and that therefore any metaphysical programme which assumes such a distinction is misguided. I shall agree with much of his reasoning, but not with his 'downbeat' conclusion: while I agree that there are serious difficulties involved in setting constraints on the bounds of the physical, I think that enough can positively be said to make physicalism a meaningful position. Between the two papers, a fairly broad survey of some recent accounts of physicalism is made and these two distinct avenues explored: physicalism construed as a doctrine about science, and physicalism as a doctrine attempting to limit the contents of the world a priori through a definition of what it is to be a physical properties. All in all, I think that there is much to learn from these two papers, but not all of it is as negative, conclusive, or 'downbeat' as their authors might have intended. Rather, I think that some new directions are indicated by the failure of some of the avenues they explore.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Philosophy
Supervisor's Name: Supervisor, not known
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Elaine Ballantyne
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-2038
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:50

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