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How to Be a (Sort of) a Priori Physicalist

D. Gene Witmer
Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition
Vol. 131, No. 1, Formulating Physicalism (Oct., 2006), pp. 185-225
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25471803
Page Count: 41
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Abstract

What has come to be known as "a priori physicalism" is the thesis, roughly, that the non-physical truths in the actual world can be deduced a priori from a complete physical description of the actual world. To many contemporary philosophers, a priori physicalism seems extremely implausible. In this paper I distinguish two kinds of a priori physicalism. One sort - strict a priori physicalism - I reject as both unmotivated and implausible. The other sort - liberal a priori physicalism - I argue is both motivated and plausible. This variety of a priori physicalism insists that the necessitation of non-physical truths by the physical facts must be underwritten in a certain fashion by a priori knowledge, but the a priori knowledge need not amount to a simple deduction of the non-physical truths from a complete physical description of the world. Further, this sort of liberal a priori physicalism has the advantage that it offers hope for a genuinely satisfying account of how the physical facts manage to necessitate the facts about phenomenal consciousness - thereby in effect solving the "hard problem" of consciousness. The first half of the paper sets out the motivation for liberal a priori physicalism and its superiority to the strict version; the second half presents one strategy available to the liberal a priori physicalist for showing how consciousness can be accommodated in a purely physical world.

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