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Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Professor Sophie Gibb

Gibb, S.C. (2010). Causal Closure Principles and the Laws of Conservation of Energy and Momentum. Dialectica 64(3): 363-384.

Author(s) from Durham


The conservation laws do not establish the central premise within the argument from causal overdetermination – the causal completeness of the physical domain. Contrary to David Papineau (2000 and 2002), this is true even if there is no non-physical energy. The combination of the conservation laws with the claim that there is no non-physical energy would establish the causal completeness principle only if, at the very least, two further causal claims were accepted. First, the claim that the only way that something non-physical could affect a physical system is by (1) affecting the amount of energy or momentum within it, or (2) redistributing the energy and momentum within it. Second, the claim that redistribution of energy and momentum cannot be brought about without supplying energy or momentum. Both of these claims, however, are exceedingly difficult to defend in the context of the argument.