Trivial and Non-Trivial (yet difficult) Physicalism


  • Michele Paolini Paoletti Università degli Studi di Macerata





According to physicalism, everything is physical, namely there are no entities (or no more restricted sorts of entities) that are not physical. In this paper, I shall examine the truth of this thesis by presenting a triviality objection against physicalism that is somehow similar to the one advanced against presentism. Firstly, I shall distinguish between two different definitions of the physical (roughly, every entity is physical-1 iff it has some feature F, such as impenetrability or exact spatio-temporal location, while every entity is physical-2 iff it is accepted by some ideal, true and complete physical theory) and between unrestricted and restricted versions of physicalism (according to the former ones, physicalism is true for every entity while, according to the latter ones, it is true only with regard to some restricted domain of entities). Secondly, I shall argue that physicalists have to deal with six different problems: the triviality of some versions of physicalism, the content-indeterminacy of the physical and the justification of the “faith” according to which we will formulate some ideal, true and complete physical theory (given the definition of the physical-2), the restricted domain problem (so that restricted versions of physicalism seem not to exclude the existence of seemingly non-physical entities), the (possible and plausible) incompatibility between the two different definitions of the physical, the extension of the physical investigation problem.