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Abstract: Keywords: action, dualism, functionalism, materialism, physicalism Contents 1. What is mental causation? 2. History 3. Mental causation as a problem for dualism 4. Mental causation as a problem for physicalism 5. Mental causation and cognitive science..
Abstract: The issue of downward causation (and mental causation in particular), and the exclusion problem is discussed by taking into account some recent advances in the philosophy of science. The problem is viewed from the perspective of the new interventionist theory of causation developed by Woodward. It is argued that from this viewpoint, a higher-level (e.g., mental) state can sometimes truly be causally relevant, and moreover, that the underlying physical state which realizes it may fail to be such
Abstract: This paper is about the causal exclusion argument against non-reductive physicalism. Many philosophers think that this argument poses a serious problem for non-reductive theories of the mind — some think that it is decisive against them. In the first part I will outline non-reductive physicalism and the exclusion argument. Then I will distinguish between three versions of the argument that address three different versions of non-reductive physicalism. According to the first, the relation between mental and physical events is token-identity. According to the second, mental events are distinct from physical events, but the latter metaphysically include and determine the former. And on the third version, mental and physical events are entirely distinct. I will argue that the causal exclusion argument is not decisive against non-reductive physicalism in any of the three versions. According to non-reductive physicalism, mental events are dependent on physical events. Causal exclusion and overdetermination, however, requires distinct and independent causes. I will argue that the burden of proof lies with the opponents of non-reductive physicalism, who have to explain how metaphysically dependent events can possibly overdetermine an effect or exclude each other from being causally efficacious.
Abstract: Given some reasonable assumptions concerning the nature of mental causation, non-reductive physicalism faces the following dilemma. If mental events cause physical events, they merely overdetermine their effects (given the causal closure of the physical). If mental events cause only other mental events, they do not make the kind of difference we want them to. This dilemma can be avoided if we drop the dichotomy between physical and mental events. Mental events make a real difference if they cause actions. But actions are neither mental nor physical events. They are realized by physical events, but they are not type-identical with them. This gives us non-reductive physicalism without downward causation. The tenability of this view has been questioned. Jaegwon Kim, in particular, has argued that non-reductive physicalism is committed to downward causation. Appealing to the nature of actions, I will argue that this commitment can be avoided
Abstract: In his Knowledge and its Limits (2000) Timothy Williamson argues that knowledge can be causally efficacious and as such figure in psychological explanation. His argument for this claim figures as a response to a key objection to his overall thesis that knowing is a mental state. In this paper I argue that although Williamson succeeds in establishing that knowledge in some cases is essential to the power of certain causal explanations of actions, he fails to do this in a way that establishes knowledge itself as a causal factor. The argument thus fails to support his overall claim that knowledge should be conceived as a state of mind.
Abstract: How can mental properties bring about physical effects, as they seem to do, given that the physical realizers of the mental goings-on are already sufficient to cause these effects? This question gives rise to the problem of mental causation (MC) and its associated threats of causal overdetermination, mental causal exclusion, and mental causal irrelevance. Some (e.g., Cynthia and Graham Macdonald, and Stephen Yablo) have suggested that understanding mental-physical realization in terms of the determinable/determinate relation (henceforth, ‘determination’) provides the key to solving the problem of MC: if mental properties are determinables of their physical realizers, then (since determinables and determinates are distinct, yet don’t causally compete) all three threats may be avoided. Not everyone agrees that determination can do this good work, however. Some (e.g., Douglas Ehring, Eric Funkhauser, and Sven Walter) object that mental-physical realization can’t be determination, since such realization lacks one or other characteristic feature of determination. I argue that on a proper understanding of the features of determination key to solving the problem of MC these arguments can be resisted