Functionalism, mental causation, and the problem of metaphysically necessary effects

Noûs 40 (2):256-83 (2006)
The recent literature on mental causation has not been kind to nonreductive, materialist functionalism (‘functionalism’, hereafter, except where that term is otherwise qualified). The exclusion problem2 has done much of the damage, but the epiphenomenalist threat has taken other forms. Functionalism also faces what I will call the ‘problem of metaphysically necessary effects’ (Block, 1990, pp. 157-60, Antony and Levine, 1997, pp. 91-92, Pereboom, 2002, p. 515, Millikan, 1999, p. 47, Jackson, 1998, pp. 660-61). Functionalist mental properties are individuated partly by their relation to the very effects those properties’ instantiations are thought to cause. Consequently, functionalist causal generalizations would seem to have the following problematical structure: The state of being, among other things, a cause of e (under such-andsuch conditions) causes e (under those conditions).3 The connection asserted lacks the contingency one would expect of a causal generalization. Mental states of the kind in question are, by metaphysical necessity, causes of e; any state that does not cause e is thereby a different kind of state. Yet, a mental state’s being the sort of state it is must play some causal role if functionalism is to account for mental causation.4 In what follows, I first articulate more fully the problem of metaphysically necessary effects. I then criticize three functionalist attempts to solve the problem directly. Given the failure of functionalist efforts to meet the problem head-on, I consider less direct strategies: these involve formulating functionalism or its causal claims in such a way that they appear not to generate the problem of metaphysically necessary effects. I argue against these indirect solutions, in each case concluding either that the problem still arises or that avoiding it requires the adoption of an unorthodox form of functionalism (itself a surprising result). In the final..
Keywords Causality  Ceteris Paribus  Functionalism  Metaphysics  Probability  Regularity
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.0029-4624.2006.00609.x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 15,904
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Stephen Yablo (1992). Mental Causation. Philosophical Review 101 (2):245-280.
Jaegwon Kim (1999). Making Sense of Emergence. Philosophical Studies 95 (1-2):3-36.
Ned Block (1978). Troubles with Functionalism. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 9:261-325.
Sydney Shoemaker (1998). Causal and Metaphysical Necessity. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 79 (1):59–77.

View all 56 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Karen Bennett (2007). Mental Causation. Philosophy Compass 2 (2):316-337.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

240 ( #4,347 of 1,725,444 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

151 ( #1,897 of 1,725,444 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.