“What counts as physical? In the philosophy of mind, a broad construal is often at work: roughly, one according to which the “physical” includes anything that takes up space (hence the special puzzles about mental causation). The broad construal may be harmless in that context, but is obviously too broad for our present purposes, since it fails to exclude the chemical. If chemical properties are a subset of physical properties, dependence follows automatically for any physicalist position based on a reflexive dependence relation: we know right away that the chemical depends on the physical, but only because it depends on the chemical. This would be a terminological answer to the dependence question, and would leave open what dependence relations hold between different subsets of “physical” properties. A narrower, more informative, conception of the physical might proceed in terms of the discipline of physics, but this would not suit physicalist intuitions that physical properties are basic. Physics itself studies a heterogeneous array of entities and properties, and it is hard to see why theories constructed within, say, fluid dynamics or astrophysics should be expected to be more fundamental than chemical theories.3 Nor would a physicalist position of this sort survive serious thought as to how historical contingencies determine which domains of phenomena came to be studied in physics departments, rather than (say) departments of engineering or chemistry.”
Is There Downward Causation in Chemistry?
In book: Philosophy Of Chemistry (pp.173-189)
Robin Findlay Hendry