Reply to Pettit

Analysis 53 (4):224-27 (1993)
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In an earlier paper [3], D. H. Mellor and I argued that physicalism faces a dilemma: 'physical' is either taken in very restrictive sense, in which case physicalism is clearly false; or it is taken in a very broad sense, in which case the doctrine is almost empty. The challenge to the physicalist is to define a doctrine which is both defensible and substantial. Philip Pettit [4] accepts this challenge, and responds with a definition of physicalism which he thinks avoids the dilemma. Pettit's definition of physicalism involves four claims, two about entities, two about laws. Claims 1 and 3, concerning the existence of microphysical entities and microphysical laws, should not be questioned. Claims 2 and 4 are what make Pettit's theory physicalist: 2 says that microphysical entities constitute everything, 4 says that microphysical laws govern everything. I shall argue that the various ways Pettit offers of understanding these claims are in tension with one another, with the result that his definition does not avoid the dilemma posed in [3].
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