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Faith and Philosophy

Volume 15, Issue 2, April 1998

Reflections on the 20th Anniversary of the Society of Christian philosophers

William F. Vallicella
Pages 160-180

Could a Classical Theist Be a Physicalist?

Since physicalism is fashionable nowadays, one should perhaps not be too surprised to find a growing number of theistic philosophers bent on combining theism with physicalism. I shall be arguing that this is an innovation we have good reason to resist. I begin by distinguishing global physicalism (physicalism about everything) from local physicalism (physicalism about human beings). I then present the theist who would be a physicalist with a challenge: Articulate a version of local physicalism that allows some minds to be purely material and others to be purely immaterial. After examining the main versions of local physicalism currently on offer, among them, type-type identity theory, supervenientism, emergentism and functionalism, I conclude that none of them can meet the challenge.

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