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Physicalism is a programme for building a unified system of knowledge based on the view that everything is a manifestation of the physical aspects of existence. Jeffrey Poland presents a comprehensive exploration of the philosophical foundations of this programme. He investigates the core ideas, motivating values, and presuppositions of physicalism; the constraints upon an adequate formulation of physicalist doctrine; the epistemological and modal status, the scope, and the methodological roles of physicalist principles. He reviews and evaluates major objections to the programme, and considers its significance for philosophy, science, society, and individual persons. An important theme of the book is that recent attempts to formulate a 'non-reductive' version of physicalism are inadequate and that the role of supervenience relations in expressions of physicalist thought is significantly limited. This is the first sustained and systematic discussion of the major philosophical aspects of the physicalist programme. Professor Poland also examines the relations between physicalism and other philosophical positions, such as realism, empiricism, and relativism, and suggests that physicalism is compatible with a tolerant pluralism in the philosophical, cultural, and personal domains.
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Table of Contents

Part 1 The problem of formulation: preliminaries; core ideas and values; gratuitous associations; criteria for assessing physicalism. Part 2 Review of past formulations: reductionist approaches; non-reductionist approaches; diagnosis and conclusions. Part 3 Identification of the physical bases: bases for ontology, ideology and doctrine; presupposition 1 - divisions between branches of science; presupposition 2 - determinacy of the bases; presupposition 3 - the privileged status of physics. Part 4 The theses of physicalism: ontological dependence, supervenience and realization; determination of fact and truth; vertical explanation and realization theories. Part 5 The metatheses of physicalism: physicalism and the natural order; "a posteriori" status and its problems; methodological roles and the resolution of conflict; necessity, contingency and physicalist principles. Part 6 Assessment of the physicalist programme: adequate expression of the core ideas and values; challenges to the acceptability of physicalism; prospects for success of the physicalist programme. Part 7 Significance of the physicalist programme: physicalism and philosophy; physicalism and science; physicalism and culture; physicalism and the individual.


An impressive achivement: its scope is well-focused: it is painstakingly thorough; and it has a good balance between critical and original material. It is demanding of the reader, but in return, it rewards the reader by imparting a very common-sensical vision of a significant and plausible thesis of physicalism ... Jeffrey Poland's Physicalism provides a valuable map of the moves and countermoves concerning the formulation and discussion of one of the most attractive, and yet elusive, theses of our century. * Philosophical Psychology * As far as the selection of topic is concerned, it is certainly a timely and much needed work ... I believe Poland's book is a valuable contribution to the debate on the physicalist programme, and ought to receive appropriate attention in future discussions of this topic. * Mind * Physicalism is a much needed examination of the physicalist programme and a valuable contribution to the philosophy of science and metaphysics ... some of the most interesting parts of the book are precisely where he attempts to show a lack of entailment between physicalism and other philosophical positions. This is clearly a valuable philosophical contribution. Physicalism is an excellent and important work which should be read by anyone interested in metaphysics and philosophy of science, language or mind. * Australasian Journal of Philosophy * Jeffrey Poland's book defends a version of physicalism along these lines, and anyone interested in the issue of physicalism, and in this kind of view, will want to read his book ... Poland's thorough and ambitious book is ultimately for initiates: those who have decided that they are physicalists, but want to know exactly what this means. * Times Literary Supplement *

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