I just read David Papineau's excellent and provocative 2001 article, "The Rise of Physicalism ". He argues that physicalism is supported by the principle of the completeness of physics (sometimes known as the causal closure of the physical), and that theoretical and empirical evidence for such a principle slowly built up over the centuries but became overwhelming only in the middle of the 20th century, when — not coincidentally, if Papineau is right — contemporary physicalism replaced phemomenalism, vitalism, and other previously popular views and became a dominant view in metaphysics (especially with respect to the mind).
Papineau's paper is by necessity quick and occasionally explicitly speculative on how the history went. Does anyone know whether Papineau's story is correct? Is there any more detailed and recent historical literature on the topics covered by Papineau (conservation laws in physics, vitalism and its demise, physicalism about the mind) that supports (or undermine, as the case may be) Papineau's account?
(cross-posted at Brains.)