A doctrine stating that everything in the world can be reduced
down to its fundamental physical, or material, basis. For this
reason, the word "physicalism" is often used interchangeably
with the word "materialism." Both terms hold that the
real world consists only of matter and energy, and that all organic
and inorganic processes can be explained by reference to the laws
of nature. Physics, the main branch of science generally supporting
this view, has been able to explain a large range of phenomena
in terms of a few of these basic natural laws; such as gravity,
electricity, composition of mass, etc.
Essentially, reductive physicalism proposes that the properties
of larger objects or entities are determined by those of their
physical parts. Thus, in the area of cognitive science and psychology,
a person's thoughts, feelings, and sensations are seen as issuing
from certain physical (chemical and biological) components of
a person's physiological makeup. In other words, once all talk
about minds and consciousness is reduced to its most basic level,
then all we are left with is talk about about physical facts.
Challenging this reductionism is the fact that physiologists are
far from making exact correlations between neural states and even
one mental state.
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