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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 113, Issue 11, November 2016

Lei Zhong
Pages 572-590
DOI: 10.5840/jphil20161131138

Physicalism, Psychism, and Phenomenalism

The dominant way to define physical entities is by appeal to ideal physics (as opposed to current physics). However, it has been worried that physicalism understood in terms of ideal physics would be too liberal to rule out “psychism”, which is the view that mentality exists at the fundamental metaphysical level. In this article, I argue that whereas physicalism is incompatible with some psychist cases, such as the case of “phenomenalism” in which ideal physics adopts mental concepts to denote fundamental entities, physicalism should accommodate a certain type of psychist case in which fundamental mental entities are denoted by non-mental concepts in ideal physics. In so doing, I propose a distinctive account of physical entities, which is based on two plausible theses: 1) physical entities are entities denoted by physical concepts; and 2) physical concepts are non-mental natural concepts in ideal physics. Physicalism thus understood is expected to be neither too liberal nor too demanding.