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There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Physicalism by Daniel Stoljar, provides an in depth examination of the arguments for and definitions of physicalism that have dominated Anglo-American philosophical thought for over a half century.
Stoljar is a clear writer, and attempts to provide a broad discussion of the topic. In the middle chapters of the book, however, the writing bogs as one minor variant of definition after another is spelled out then picked apart. Stoljar attempts to explain the popularity of physicalism among philosophers today, and the primary reason it is popular, he argues, is that it gives philosophers a useful role in discourse. There is a risk of philosophy being subsumed into science, or into linguistics, but physicalism gives philosophers the intermediate job of trying to rationalize why so many things that appear not to be physical, actually are physical despite our apparent belief they are not.
This makes physicalist philosophers basically the apologists for theocratic scientism. Ultimately, Stoljar rejects physicalism as an inappropriate remnant view left over from the 19th century, when the matter we knew was all similar to the macro-scale objects we manipulate in every day life. Physicalism is best understood as a thesis that all matter is like macro solid matter.
He concludes in his final chapter that physics has revealed the world to work so differently from our macro scale intuitions that physicalism is simply false, and the efforts to preserve the doctrine by recasting it to include the bizarre discoveries of modern physics have robbed the term of any useful content. But this is the only empirically focused chapter in the book. Instead, Stoljer explicitly says in the intro he will avoid discussing physics, and that contrary to his conclusion philosophers should be able to evaluate physicalism without referring to actual physics!
The rest of the book then focuses on definitions, and thought problems that philosophers have constructed out of their intuitions.
- Physicalism (New Problems of Philosophy) by Daniel Stoljar
Neither defintionalism, nor intuitive thought problems are a particularly useful way to evaluate an empirical question. They will only lead one to a correct conclusion if actual physics has become embedded in the imaginations of the philosophers engaged in this exercise. WHY he thinks that, when the methodology used is non-empirical but applied to an empirical question, the intuitions of philosophers were so manifestly wrong, and physicalism itself is incorrect, is difficult to understand.
Digging into the details of the book provided me an in depth review of what is wrong with much of contemporary philosophy. In chapter 1, Stoljar lists the questions that provide challenges to physicalism: When he gets to the defining process, Stojar initially posits a definition: I have not found non-philosophers who lean toward materialism to be willing to make this concession without putting up quite a fight.
If Stoljar is representing materialist philosophers correctly here, then materialism itself has basically lost all its advocates. Another issue I was startled by was the insistence by Stoljer that emergent property dualism is not physicalism, and the unacceptability of including property dualism in the definition of physicalism played a significant role in his discussion of various possible definitions.
From the point of view of spiritual dualists, and of idealists, the efforts by property monist physicalists to define property dualist physicalists out of their club seem like an argument between bigenders and littlenders.
9780415452625 - Physicalism (New Problems of Philosophy) by Daniel Stoljar
Stoljer decided to define physicalism based on properties. This struck me as a fundamentally confused approach. Relationships appear to be intrinsically non-physical, and he basically conceded this, vitiating his definitiona bit further by asyign that physicalism holds that all properties are physical properties, or dependent on physical properties. The weakness of his non-empirical approach to an empirical question is painfully apparent, as the study of neurology has made very clear that we have four frequency ranges of photon detector in our eyes, and our eyes do scanning and image integration over time and the sensor grid, and our perception of color is an interpretative attribution by our neural processing.
Squareness is a logic category binning of perceptions we are visually good at cuing on.
I also assumed that blockishness, and reflectivity, should be considered physical properties, but they are also plausibly relational, not physical. IMAGINE a red brick, and imagine touching it to establish its resistance and roughness, and scraping it to establish its hardness. I think this question, if pursued -- will lead pretty quickly to incoherence. All of this confusion could have been avoided by sticking to objects, but Stoljer apparently wanted to avoid an even worse set of problems with that. Ultimately, the definitional problems that Stoljar, and the materialist philosophers whom he discusses suffer from, are directly due to their use of an incorrect mode of thinking.
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Rationalism starts with definitions. One must define terms precisely or one can get nowhere, as precise terms are needed for logic operations. But in empiricism, definitions are always loose until a subject has been thoroughly understood. It is only after the science investigation is done that precise definitions are available to a field. The definition is loose, because its purpose is not to do logic operations , but to inspire experiments.
An empirical approach to physicalism would spend almost no time on definitions, but instead explore the test data relative to the bullet list above. The intuitions of philosophers who developed this idea seem to rely upon several invalid premises. The original example of metaphysical necessity is that Water must be H2O.