What Does the Conservation of Energy Have to Do with Physicalism?



The conservation of energy law, a law of physics that states that the total energy of any closed system is always conserved, is a bedrock principle that has achieved both broad theoretical and experimental support. Yet if interactive dualism is correct, it is thought that the mind can affect physical objects in violation of the conservation of energy. Thus, some claim, the conservation of energy grounds an argument for physicalism. Although critics of the argument focus on the implausibility of causation requiring the transference of energy, I argue that even if causation requires the transference of energy, once we accept the other required premises of the argument that lie behind any supposed argument from the conservation of energy the law of the conservation of energy is revealed as irrelevant to the question of whether the mental is physical.