How to be a (sort of) a priori physicalist

Witmer, D.
October 2006
Philosophical Studies;Oct2006, Vol. 131 Issue 1, p185
Academic Journal
What has come to be known as �a priori physicalism� is the thesis, roughly, that the non-physical truths in the actual world can be deduced a priori from a complete physical description of the actual world. To many contemporary philosophers, a priori physicalism seems extremely implausible. In this paper I distinguish two kinds of a priori physicalism. One sort � strict a priori physicalism � I reject as both unmotivated and implausible. The other sort � liberal a priori physicalism � I argue is both motivated and plausible. This variety of a priori physicalism insists that the necessitation of non-physical truths by the physical facts must be underwritten in a certain fashion by a priori knowledge, but the a priori knowledge need not amount to a simple deduction of the non-physical truths from a complete physical description of the world. Further, this sort of liberal a priori physicalism has the advantage that it offers hope for a genuinely satisfying account of how the physical facts manage to necessitate the facts about phenomenal consciousness � thereby in effect solving the �hard problem� of consciousness. The first half of the paper sets out the motivation for liberal a priori physicalism and its superiority to the strict version; the second half presents one strategy available to the liberal a priori physicalist for showing how consciousness can be accommodated in a purely physical world.


Related Articles

  • On characterizing the physical. Wilson, Jessica // Philosophical Studies;Oct2006, Vol. 131 Issue 1, p61 

    How should physical entities be characterized? Physicalists, who have most to do with the notion, usually characterize the physical by reference to two components,1 1. The physical entities are the entities treated by fundamental physics with the proviso that 2. Physical entities are not...

  • How to be a type-C physicalist. Boutel, Adrian // Philosophical Studies;Jun2013, Vol. 164 Issue 2, p301 

    This paper advances a version of physicalism which reconciles the ' a priori entailment thesis' (APET) with the analytic independence of our phenomenal and physical vocabularies. The APET is the claim that, if physicalism is true, the complete truths of physics imply every other truth a priori....

  • Avoiding Philosophy's "Bipolar Disorder": Elgin's Revision of Epistemology. Pope, Nakia S. // Philosophy of Education Yearbook;2005, p49 

    This article comments on a paper by Catherine Elgin of the University of Virginia regarding the reconciliation of the dualism in philosophy using an epistemology grounded in the concept of reflective equilibrium. Logical positivists divided philosophy into two realms which are the cognitive and...

  • Good Dualism and Private Knowledge. Malik, Luke // International Proceedings of Economics Development & Research;2011, Vol. 5 Issue 2, pV2-98 

    This paper investigates the consistency of holding two dualist propositions, relating to consciousness, and one physicalist proposition, relating to knowledge. We conclude that accepting all three leads to an absurdity. We contend that a dualist who is true to her dualist principles, the "good...

  • On Ensuring that Physicalism is Not a Dual Attribute Theory In Sheep�s Clothing. Jackson, Frank // Philosophical Studies;Oct2006, Vol. 131 Issue 1, p227 

    Physicalists are committed to the determination without remainder of the psychological by the physical, but are they committed to this determination being a priori? This paper distinguishes this question understood de dicto from this question understood de re, argues that understood de re the...

  • PURE CATEGORIAL PRINCIPLES. Goldstein, Laurence // Monist;Jul83, Vol. 66 Issue 3, p410 

    The article states that if nowadays categories seems to cover a multitude of different enquiries, one can see some continuity and coherence among them, and one can get some sense of what the subject is, by going back to the first treatise to receive the name, "The Categories of Aristotle." The...

  • Default reasonableness and the mathoids. Berry, Sharon // Synthese;Nov2013, Vol. 190 Issue 17, p3695 

    In this paper I will argue that (principled) attempts to ground a priori knowledge in default reasonable beliefs cannot capture certain common intuitions about what is required for a priori knowledge. I will describe hypothetical creatures who derive complex mathematical truths like...

  • LOGICAL KNOWLEDGE AND GETTIER CASES. Besson, Corine // Philosophical Quarterly;Jan2009, Vol. 59 Issue 234, p1 

    Knowledge of the basic rules of logic is often thought to be distinctive, for it seems to be a case of non-inferential a priori knowledge. Many philosophers take its source to be different from those of other types of knowledge, such as knowledge of empirical facts. The most prominent account of...

  • Mary Mary, Quite Contrary. Graham, George; Horgan, Terence // Philosophical Studies;May2000, Vol. 99 Issue 1, p59 

    Attempts to redesign the experiment of Frank Jackson, designed to show that physicalist/materialist theories of phenomenal consciousness are false, and asserts that properly conceived, Jackson's Mary Intuition Pump experiment, can pose a serious challenge to physicalism. Problems raised by Mary...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics