Mental causation: A real phenomenon in a physicalistic world without epiphenomenalism or overdetermination

Grazer Philosophische Studien 65 (1):139-167 (2002)
The so-called problem of mental causation as discussed in the recent literature raises three central challenges for an adequate solution from a physicalist perspective: the threat of epiphenomenalism, the problem of externalism (or the difficulty in accounting for the causal efficacy of extrinsic mental properties) and the problem of causal exclusion (or the threat of over determination). We wish to account for mental causationas a real phenomenon within a physicalistic framework without accepting epiphenomenalism or overdetermination. The key ideas of our proposal are an internal realism of causation combined with a relative notion of individuating events. We are arguing?contra Davidson?tha there is no absolute notion of events (neither as types nor as tokens) but rather one which is relative to explanatory interests and our intuitions concerning a relevant spatial and temporal overlap. Furthermore, we are presupposing a metaphysics of internal realism: We can only characterize entities by means of concepts produced within our epistemological framework. Physical concepts and mental concepts crossclassify the world as it is. Relying on this framework we try to explain how mental causation can be adequately described: Although mental concepts are not reducible to physical concepts and mental event-tokens may be different from "underlying" physical event-tokens, mental events are real phenomena that are realized by physical phenomena in special context conditions
Keywords Causation  Epiphenomenalism  Metaphysics  Mind  Physicalism
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