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Physics and common sense: A critique of physicalism

Maxwell, N; (1965) Physics and common sense: A critique of physicalism. Masters thesis , University of Manchester.

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Abstract

To what extent can physics falsify our common sense views about the world based on our ordinary experience? I consider an extreme version of physicalism, put forward by J.J.C. Smart, according to which the world is made up exclusively of a few different sorts of fundamental physical entities which interact in accordance with precise physical law, almost all human experience being illusory. Smart’s version of physicalism is, I argue, untenable, because it denies that the experiential exists. Physics, I argue, is exclusively about the causally efficacious, that which determines (perhaps probabilistically) how events evolve. Physics cannot, and does not need to, predict the experiential. Therefore, the silence of physics about the experiential provides no grounds for holding that it does not exist. I argue for a version of the common sense view of the world, which holds that perceptual qualities and inner experiences do really exist even though not capable of being predicted by physics, or being reducible to physical properties. Brain processes, like objects external to us, have experiential features not reducible to physics. This version of the common sense view is, I argue, compatible with an acceptable version of physicalism which holds that the physical is but a selected aspect of reality that determines (perhaps probabilistically) how events unfold in space and time.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Title: Physics and common sense: A critique of physicalism
Language: English
Additional information: Copy of thesis held at Joule Library in the University of Manchester
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1370997
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