Causation in Physics & in Phyiscalism

Acta Analytica (forthcoming)
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It is widely thought that there is an important argument to be made that starts with premises taken from the science of physics and ends with the conclusion of physicalism. The standard view is that this argument takes the form of a causal argument for physicalism. Roughly: physics tells us that the physical realm is causally complete, and so minds (among other entities) must be physical if they are to interact with the world as we think they do. In what follows, I raise problems for this view. After an initial review of the causal argument, I begin my case by showing that the totality of physical truths do not deductively entail the causal completeness of the physical realm, using a double-prevention scenario and causation by omission to show that nonphysical causes of physical effects would not need to violate physical conservation laws. I then move on to raise problems for an inductive argument for causal completeness by drawing on the neo-Russellian view that there is no causation in fundamental physics, and so causation must itself be a realized or derived entity. I conclude by suggesting that the underlying problem is that the causal argument has fallen out of touch with the sophisticated understanding that philosophers have developed of the role of causation within physics.

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Justin Tiehen
University of Puget Sound


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