Organon F

Volume 26, August 2019, Issue 4, Pages 542–571

ISSN 2585-7150 (online) ISSN 1335-0668 (print)

Research Article

There IS a Question of Physicalism

Orli Dahan 


The most common catchphrase of physicalism is: “everything is physical”. According to Hempel’s Dilemma, however, physicalism is an ill-formed thesis because it can offer no account of the physics to which it refers: current physics will definitely be revised in the future, and we do not yet know the nature of future physics. The dilemma arises due to our difficulty to set the boundaries of the concept ‘physical.’ In order to confront the dilemma, a physicalist must ensure that physics is not going to broaden itself artificially (or in some trivial way) to become complete—perhaps by adding non-reductive mental entities to elementary physical theory, making it impossible to distinguish physicalism from dualism. I offer a solution to the dilemma which is a version of the ‘via negativa’ (standardly taken to be a stipulation that the physical not include the mental), albeit one that is specified and worked out in a distinctive way. My suggested formulation of the physicalist hypothesis allows us to establish a refutation condition of physicalism. The refutation condition is general and not only dualistic. Consequently, the physicalist can choose the second horn of the dilemma, and hold that physicalism is indeed refutable (and not a trivial thesis).


Completeness of physics; consciousness; dualism; Hempel’s Dilemma; physicalism; via negativa.

Author(s) and affiliation(s)


Orli Dahan


Tel-Hai College


Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Tel-Hai College, Upper Galilee, 12208, Israel


About this article


12 June 2018


30 November 2018

Published online

14 March 2019


Institute of Philosophy of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Cite as


Dahan, O. (2019). There IS a Question of Physicalism. Organon F26(4), 542–571.


Dahan, Orli. 2019. "There IS a Question of Physicalism." Organon F 26 (4): 542–571.


Dahan, O. (2019). There IS a Question of Physicalism. Organon F, 26(4), pp. 542–571.

Copyright information

© Orli Dahan

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