"one's mental faculties, conscious cognitive powers, sanity," 1560s, from sense (n.). The meaning "faculties of physical sensation" is from 1590s.
"disputed, made the object of contention or competition," 1670s, past-participle adjective from contest (v.). Specifically of elections from 1771, American English.
by 1858 as "one who maintains that human intellectual and moral nature depend on and results from one's physical constitution or organization," from physical (adj.) + -ist. By 1934 as "one who holds the theory that all science must be capable of being expressed in the language of physics." Related: Physicalism.