Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

The Completeness of Physics

By David Spurrett

Abstract

The present work is focussed on the completeness of physics, or what is here called the Completeness Thesis: the claim that the domain of the physical is causally closed. Two major questions are tackled: How best is the Completeness Thesis to be formulated? What can be said in defence of the Completeness Thesis? My principal conclusions are that the Completeness Thesis can be coherently formulated, and that the evidence in favour if it significantly outweighs that against it. In opposition to those who argue that formulation is impossible because no account of what is to count as physical can be provided, I argue that as long as the purpose of the argument in which the account is to be used are borne in mind there are no significant difficulties. The account of the physical which I develop holds as physical whatever is needed to fix the likelihood of pre-theoretically given physical effects, and hypothesises in addition that no chemical, biological or psychological factors will be needed in this way. The thus formulated Completeness Thesis is coherent, and has significant empirical content. In opposition to those who defend the doctrine of emergentism by means of philosophical arguments I contend that those arguments are flawed, setting up misleading dichotomies between needlessly attenuated alternatives and assuming the truth of what is to be proved. Against those who defend emergentism by appeal to the evidence, I argue that the history of science since the nineteenth century shows clearly that the empirical credentials of the view that the world is causally closed at the level of a small number of purely physical forces and types of energy is stronger than ever, and the credentials of emergentism correspondingly weaker. In opposition to those who argue that difficulties with reductionism point to the implausibility of the Completeness Thesis I argue that completeness in no way entails the kinds of reductionism which give rise to the difficulties in question. I argue further that the truth of the Completeness Thesis is in fact compatible with a great deal of taxonomic disorder and the impossibility of any general reduction of non-fundamental descriptions to fundamental ones. In opposition to those who argue that the epistemological credentials of fundamental physical laws are poor, and that those laws should in fact be seen as false, I contend that truth preserving accounts of fundamental laws can be developed. Developing such an account, I test it by considering cases of the composition of forces and causes, where what takes place is different to what is predicted by reference to any single law, and argue that viewing laws as tendencies allows their truth to be preserved, and sense to be made of both the experimental discovery of laws, and the fact that composition enables accurate prediction in at least some cases

Topics: Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science
Year: 1999
OAI identifier: oai:cogprints.org:3379
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • http://cogprints.org/3379/1/DS... (external link)
  • http://cogprints.org/3379/ (external link)
  • Suggested articles

    Citations

    1. A Course of Six Lectures on the Chemical History of a Candle, London: Chatto and Windus.
    2. (1959). A History of Biology, (revised edition),
    3. (1954). A History of Mechanics, Neuchâtel: Éditions du Griffon. (Reprinted
    4. (1951). A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities,
    5. (1986). A Primer on Determinism,
    6. (1966). An Argument for the Identity Theory’,
    7. (1993). Artificial Life: The Quest for a New Creation,
    8. (1999). Being and
    9. (1987). Bhaskar, Cartwright and Realism in
    10. (1977). Biology in the Nineteenth Century, Cambridge:
    11. (1989). Cambridge:
    12. (1997). Capacities, Universality, and Singularity’,
    13. (1996). Cartwright on Fundamental Laws: A Response to Clarke’,
    14. (1995). Cartwright on Probabilistic Causality: Types, Tokens, and Capacities’,
    15. (1981). Causal Explanation and the Reality of Natural Component Forces’,
    16. (1973). Causal Powers,
    17. (1976). Changing concepts of consciousness and free will’,
    18. (1998). Complexity and Postmodernism,
    19. (1991). Computation at the Edge of Chaos: Phase Transitions and Emergent Computation’, in Forrest
    20. (1991). Connectionism and the Mind,
    21. (1995). Critical Notice of Dupré
    22. (1987). Critique of Judgement, (translated by Werner Pluhar),
    23. (1929). Critique of Pure Reason, (translated by Norman Kemp Smith),
    24. (1995). Discipline and Experience: The Mathematical Way in the Scientific Revolution,
    25. (1986). Discussion: Macro- Versus Micro-Determinism’,
    26. (1980). Do the Laws of Physics State the Facts?’,
    27. (1995). Does physicalism need fixing?’,
    28. (1991). Donald Davidson, Cambridge:
    29. (1974). Downward Causation’ in Hierarchically Organized Biological Systems’,
    30. (1992). Downward Causation” in Emergentism and Nonreductive Physicalism’,
    31. (1992). Dynamic, Genetic, and Chaotic Programming: The Sixth Generation.
    32. (1952). Elements of Chemistry, (translated by Robert Kerr),
    33. (1992). Emergent Phenomena and Complex Systems’,
    34. (1982). Energy, Force, and Matter: The Conceptual Development of Nineteenth-Century Physics, Cambridge:
    35. (1996). Explanatory disunities and the unity of science’,
    36. (1981). From Galileo to Newton,
    37. (1994). Fundamentalism vs. the Patchwork of Laws’,
    38. (1978). Galileo Studies, (translated from the French by Mepham,
    39. (1997). Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels With Science,
    40. (1983). How the Laws of Physics Lie,
    41. (1934). Inaugural Lecture: Determinism, Indeterminism, and Libertarianism, Cambridge:
    42. (1998). Intellectual Impostures,
    43. (1992). Introduction – Reductive and Nonreductive Physicalism’
    44. (1993). Is Natural Science “Natural” Enough? A Reply to Phillip Allport’, Synthese 94,
    45. (1968). Language and Mind,
    46. (1972). Language and Mind,(enlarged edition)
    47. (1967). Laplace as a Newtonian Scientist: A Paper delivered at a seminar on the Newtonian Influence held at the
    48. (1980). Materialism without Reductionism: What Physicalism Does not Entail’,
    49. (1989). Meaning and Mental Representation,
    50. (1970). Mental Events’,
    51. (1978). Mentalist monism: consciousness as a causal emergent of brain processes’,
    52. (1984). Micro-Determinism and Concepts of Emergence’,
    53. (1936). Minor Works, (translated by W.
    54. (1990). Molecular Biology and the Unity of Science’,
    55. (1972). More is Different: Broken symmetry and the hierarchical structure of nature’,
    56. (1980). Naming and Necessity,
    57. (1972). Naming and Necessity’,
    58. (1995). Naturalizing the Mind,
    59. (1989). Nature’s Capacities and their Measurement,
    60. (1986). Neurophilosophy,
    61. (1993). Non-reductive physicalism’, in
    62. (1989). On Formulating Materialism and Dualism’,
    63. (1905). On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies’
    64. (1989). Our Place in the Universe: A Metaphysical Discussion,
    65. (1980). Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature,
    66. (1993). Physicalism and Mathematics’,
    67. (1992). Pi in the Sky: Counting, Thinking and Being,
    68. (1991). Principles of Philosophy, (translated and edited
    69. (1998). Probability and Causality: Why Hume and Indeterminism Don’t Mix’, Noûs 22,
    70. (1996). Promiscuous Realism: Reply to Wilson’,
    71. (1992). Quantum Mechanics and Experience,
    72. Re f e r e nc e s
    73. (1995). Reply to Eells, Humphreys and Morrison’,
    74. (1985). Review of Cartwright
    75. (1980). Rules and Representation, Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Re f e r e nc e s 185 References
    76. (1983). Science and Moral Priority,
    77. (1991). Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives, Cambridge:
    78. (1996). Simple Theories of a Messy World: Truth and Explanatory Power in Nonlinear Dynamics’,
    79. (1927). Sir Isaac Newton: Annual Lecture on a Master Mind, London:
    80. (1993). So the Laws of Physics Needn’t Lie’,
    81. (1993). Supervenience and Mind: Selected Philosophical Essays, Cambridge:
    82. (1995). The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz, Cambridge:
    83. (1957). The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought, Cambridge:
    84. (1993). The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science, Cambridge Mass:
    85. (1975). The Emergence of Probability, Cambridge:
    86. (1977). The Essential Tension,
    87. (1980). The Evolution of Mechanics, (translated by M. Cole and edited by G.AE. Oravas), Alphen aan den Rijn: Sijthoff and Noordhoff.
    88. (1992). The Genetic Programming Paradigm: Genetically Breeding Populations of Computer Programs to Solve Problems’,
    89. (1980). The Human Psyche: The Gifford Lectures,
    90. (1995). The Lies Remain the Same: A Reply to Chalmers’,
    91. (1925). The Mind and Its Place in Nature, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
    92. (1987). The Mind of God and the Works of Man,
    93. (1989). The Myth of Nonreductive Physicalism’,
    94. (1980). The Nature of Mind,
    95. (1985). The Philosophical Writings of Descartes,
    96. (1958). The Physical Foundation of Biology: An Analytical Study,
    97. (1923). The Principle of Relativity,
    98. (1923). The Principle of Relativity, translated
    99. (1964). The Rules of Sociological Method, (translated by George Catlin), doi
    100. (1908). The Science and Philosophy of the Organism: The Gifford Lectures Delivered Before the doi
    101. (1962). The Scientific Revolution 1500-1800: The Formation of the Modern Scientific Attitude,
    102. (1996). The Solution to the Problem of the Freedom of the Will’.
    103. (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (2 nd edition),
    104. (1982). The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit,
    105. (1993). The Undivided Universe,
    106. (1990). There is no
    107. (1973). Three Philosophers: Aristotle, Aquinas, Frege,
    108. (1978). Universals and Scientific Realism, Vol. II. A Theory of Universals, Cambridge:
    109. (1987). Victor Gollancz: A Biography,
    110. (1983). volumes), Cambridge:
    111. (1998). What are Physical Properties?’,
    112. (1980). Wholeness and the Implicate Order, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
    113. (1991). Why indeed?

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.