Monday, April 24, 2017

Physicalism and Hempel's dilemma

One might object that any formulation of physicalism which utilizes the theory-based conception will be either trivial or false. Carl Hempel (cf. Hempel 1969, see also Crane and Mellor 1990) provided a classic formulation of this problem: if physicalism is defined via reference to contemporary physics, then it is false — after all, who thinks that contemporary physics is complete? — but if physicalism is defined via reference to a future or ideal physics, then it is trivial — after all, who can predict what a future physics contains? Perhaps, for example, it contains even mental items. The conclusion of the dilemma is that one has no clear concept of a physical property, or at least no concept that is clear enough to do the job that philosophers of mind want the physical to play.

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

4 comments:

Jimmy S. M. said...

"then it is false — after all, who thinks that contemporary physics is complete?"

How about just being more or less accurate? I'd say that's the best we can ever do.. In your worldview, is contemporary theology "complete", and if not, therefore "false"?

Also, I have a far, far less clear picture of the non-physical

Joe Hinman said...

Jimmy good point.I think theology nowhere near complete and accuracy is not an issue. Can't worry about accuracy when the subject matter is beyond our understanding.

Aron Zavaro said...

Why does physics need to be complete in order to draw conclusions from the conclusions in physics that are more or less locked in place? We don't need to know everything in order to know some things.

Joe Hinman said...

Nature of Truth, Christina vs modern