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Physicalism Physicalism, in one form or another, has been one of the dominant positions in metaphysics in the latter part of the 20th century


Academic year: 2023

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In the functionalist version this compatibility was achieved by maintaining that mental phenomena are 'realized' in physical properties and processes, while in the anomalous monist version it was achieved by maintaining that any event that can be given a mental description, a physical description can also be given. In '"Downward Causation" in Emergentism and Non-reductive Physicalism' in Emergence or Reduction?. reductive physicalists try to combine two appealing ideas: that mentality arises out of, and in that sense depends on, the physical; and that despite this ontological. dependence, it begins to lead its own causal life with a capacity to influence that which sustains its existence. They want to include the chemical, the biological - in fact everything that the natural sciences deal with up to, but not including the psychological - as 'physical'.

On the other hand, to accept emergence, in the sense of higher-level, causally efficient powers that are not explicable in terms of lower-level powers of physical constituents, is to give up physicalism. Even reputable physicists often give explanatory descriptions in terms of 'particles' in a way that, if taken seriously, would be inconsistent with the physics they are trying to explain. Harré: Philosophical Foundations of Quantum Field Theory (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1988); Paul Davies: "Particles don't exist" in The Quantum Theory of Gravity, ed.

Particles are the alleged locus of causal power, and the configurations in which they participate are 'merely' the stage setting for the effects of the particle-causal.

Emergent ‘Levels’ and Causal Drain

This claim is deeply ambiguous; the answer to the question depends on whether the truths determined at the level of finest resolution include all the relational truths. But not all the relevant relational truths are discernible at the 'finest level of resolution'; some, probably most, of the patterns that are causally significant are of a larger scale than that. Reference to 'all truths determined at the finest level of resolution' glosses over this crucial question of the extent of causally effective patterns.

The development of the physical and biological sciences since the time of Descartes has replaced his dichotomy with a multifaceted model of the world as Kim rightly points out that the way this multifaceted picture of the world has been standardly understood in discussions of various issues in the metaphysics and philosophy of science is not as innocent as it appears. Physical 'realizers' exploit in advance the second-order causal powers or functional properties that they realize.

Consequently, if the physicalists' story is correct, this hierarchical model of nature, layered mereologically in terms of constituents at each level, seems to imply that causal powers at any level are 'realized' by the micro-properties of the constituent entities. Consequently, all causation seems to trickle down to the level of the fundamental particles, as the sole locus of causal forces. His new proposal is to call second-order properties the functional properties realized in basic (or first-order) properties of the same entities and systems.

Orders therefore do not generate new ontological levels, and the causal powers of higher-order properties are attributed only to their designated first-order properties at the same level. Such a supervenient property and its supervenience base are therefore both macroproperties of the same (level of) entity. Therefore, Kim argues, functional properties and their realizations are on one and the same 'level'; they do not exist at different levels in a hierarchy of the sciences.

Kim’s Endorsement of Emergence

Underlying this train of thought is his continued emphasis on a crucial premise of his previous arguments: the causal closure of the physical domain. The only way he can hold on to this, consistent with his endorsement of emergence, is to defend a broad sense of the word. An emergent quality arises precisely because of the complexity of the organization of the constituency.

For example, in his 1993 paper he identifies this position as "the first. systematic articulation" of the non-reductionist approach and argues that the latter is "best viewed as a form of emergentism". Perhaps Kim's new position still differs from that of the British emergentists in the following way. Broad was the first to give a detailed explanation of the concept of an emergent property.

This, we surmise, is why he still puts aside the qualities that perhaps require 'showing off', apparently of the British emergentist kind. If this is right, we can read Kim as still differentiating himself from the British emergentists and taking their positions to be definitive of the classical model of the show. The first point to note is that he begins his analysis with an understanding of the relation 'realization' as.

If it is, then: 1) here is an example of the supervenience relation tracing the micro-macro hierarchy; and 2) what is its supervisory basis. For all that Kim says in this book, micro-based properties only provide new causal regularities, not new causal powers, in the elaboration of the causal interactions between the fundamental particles. If mental properties (perhaps with the exception of qualia) are functionalizable, given Kim's understanding of .

His preoccupation with that challenge seems to obscure his recognition of the full significance of what he has done in constructing this block—particularly to endorse configurations as legitimate loci of (potentially emergent) causal power. For us, the diagnosis of the original problem is the delegitimization of organization as a potential locus for (emerging) causal power.

Non-linearity and Downward Causation

Aggregates of this type do not provide interesting examples of formation; even a reductive physicalist can comfortably accept them, since the mass of a brick is the result of a simple summation of the mass of each part. Nevertheless, even simple aggregates have been considered as a cause for questioning whether some of their macro-properties might have a causal effect downward to their constituent parts. The path of a molecule in an iron wheel cannot be explained except by considering its location in that wheel.33 The motion of the wheel as a whole as it rolls along is clearly what determines the curved path of that individual iron molecule.

Kim has argued persuasively that there is nothing in this that is strange or metaphysically challenging, provided we understand this reflexive "falling causation" diachronically. Then, not only do we get a non-trivial and intuitive concept of emergence, but we also get a classification of different kinds of emergence in terms of which conditions are not fulfilled. By definition, any instance of nonlinearity is an instance of something whose causal properties cannot be inferred.

When we turn to consider cases of non-linearity which provide the interesting cases of emergence, a further set of important distinctions must be made. For example, the processes internal to cells are strongly constrained by the overall processes of the organism.37 Such 'meta-internal' downward causes can extend to the existence of complex molecules that would not otherwise exist. The influence of the environment on a computer chip's internal processes would be another example.38.

For example, changes in the organization of an ecosystem can change the selection pressure on the constituent organisms. Similarly, changes in the Earth's biosphere can alter selections and, at least indirectly, variations in species and ecosystems at constitutive levels. Within a more plausible process-based metaphysics, the mere possibility of emergence need no longer be considered.

A Process Model of Emergence

A problematic step is to assume that, where there are truly emergent properties and powers, it is reasonable to infer that any causal effect of higher-level organization is remediable in favor of working on the causal effects of the constituent parts in the emergence of that organization. base. Stability over time and against disturbances shows the cohesion of the general organization of the process.39 The articulation of the required model, which can only be outlined here, begins with the observation that there are essentially two forms of process stability: 1) stability of the energy well; and 2) far-from-equilibrium stability. Combinations of such stable "energy well" processes exist at the macroscopic level, and some of the properties exhibited by such combinations are the result of combining the properties of the more microscopic processes that are their constituents.

Until such a system is turned off or runs out of chemicals, it is maintained, but the stability of the chemical bath is completely dependent on its environmental conditions: the pumps and the supply in the reservoirs. The ability to be self-sustaining is a budding causal force in the organization of the candle flame; it cannot simply be explained as the physical resultant of causal properties of its distinct constituents. So while we can understand the idea that a higher level 'energy well' process, like a hydrogen atom, has lower level constituents, the concept is the 'emergence base' of the atom.

When we turn to the other type of stable system, away from equilibrium systems, the unsoundness of the conclusion is even more apparent. All that goes on inside the flame is the wick, but it is not, in any relevant sense, a basic component of the flame, and it is also progressively consumed. It is true that some of the energy released by combustion at any time is used to cause.

But if this argument were sound, the wax and oxygen molecules within the flame zone at any moment would be nomologically sufficient to (i.e., cause) the combustion of other molecules within the flame at a time later. Now, adding another pencil to the box would in no way change the molecules and internal relationships of the previous pencil. The property of being the longest pencil seems trivial, but the logic of the case would apply equally to any external, relational property.


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