E.J. Lowe has recently proposed a model of mental causation on which mental events are emergent, thus exerting a novel, downward causal influence on physical events. Yet on Lowe's model, mental causation is at the same time empirically undetectable, and in this sense is "invisible". Lowe's model is ingenious, but I don't think emergentists should welcome it, for it seems to me that a primary virtue of emergentism is its bold empirical prediction about the long-term results of human physiology. Here (...) I'll try to restore emergentism's empirical status, but my broader aim is to use Lowe's model to explore some central topics in the mental causation debate, including the "causal closure" of the physical world and the nature of causal powers. (shrink)
An adequate solution to the problem of mental causation should deliver, not just the efficacy of mental properties, but the efficacy of mental properties as such, of mentality in its own right. But this appears to block an identity solution from the outset. Any property that’s both mental and physical, the argument goes, has a dual nature, and this just reintroduces the problem of mental causation, now framed in terms of these two natures. But a powers ontology promises to save (...) the identity theory, at least from this problem. Such an ontology identifies a mental property’s mental and physical “natures” with just the property itself. A mental property is, at once, both wholly mental and wholly physical, so that to causally engage the physical nature of a mental property is to engage its mental nature as well. (shrink)
This is about a proposed solution to the exclusion problem, one I've defended elsewhere (for example, in "The Properties of Mental Causation"). Details aside, it's just the identity theory: mental properties face no threat of exclusion from, or preemption by, physical properties, because every mental property is a physical property. Here I elaborate on this solution and defend it from some objections. One of my goals is to place it in the context of a more general ontology of properties, in (...) particular, a trope ontology. (shrink)
David Robb (2008). Zombies From Below. In Simone Gozzano Francesco Orilia (ed.), Tropes, Universals, and the Philosophy of Mind: Essays at the Boundary of Ontology and Philosophical Psychology. Ontos Verlag.
A zombie is a creature just like a conscious being in certain respects, but wholly lacking in consciousness. In this paper, I look at zombies from the perspective of basic ontology (“from below”), taking as my starting point a trope ontology I have defended elsewhere. The consequences of this ontology for zombies are mixed. Viewed from below, one sort of zombie—the exact dispositional zombie—is impossible. A similar argument can be wielded against another sort—the exact physical zombie—but here supplementary principles are (...) needed to get to the impossibility result. Finally, at least two sorts of zombie—the behavioural and functional zombies—escape these arguments from below. (shrink)
Worries about mental causation are prominent in contemporary discussions of the mind and human agency. Originally, the problem of mental causation was that of understanding how a mental substance (thought to be immaterial) could interact with a material substance, a body. Most philosophers nowadays repudiate immaterial minds, but the problem of mental causation has not gone away. Instead, focus has shifted to mental properties. How could mental properties be causally relevant to bodily behavior? How could something mental qua mental cause (...) what it does? After looking at the traditional Problem of Interaction, we survey various versions of the property-based problem and look at proposed solutions to them. (shrink)
Press a square paperweight into a lump of soft clay. What results is a square impression. Could a circular impression have resulted instead? The answer seems to be No. In this paper, I take this and similar examples as evidence for power essentialism, the thesis that the powers bestowed by a property are essential to it. I spend most of the paper trying to answer a few arguments against the evidential value of such examples: (1) there is the appearance of (...) necessity here, but it is of the wrong sort of necessity, say, mere nomological necessity; (2) one gets the appearance of necessity only if powers (such as rigidity) are held fixed, rendering the examples useless as evidence for power essentialism; (3) the examples are too simple, too crudely mechanistic. (shrink)
This paper is an articulation and defense of a trope-bundle theory of material objects. After some background remarks about objects and tropes, I start the main defense in Section III by answering a charge frequently made against the bundle theory, namely that it commits a conceptual error by saying that properties are parts of objects. I argue that there’s a general and intuitive sense of “part” in which properties are in fact parts of objects. This leads to the question of (...) qualitative unity: in virtue of what are certain properties unified as parts of an object? In Section IV I defend an account of unity for complex material objects. It turns on the thesis that the properties of such objects are structural properties. After addressing some objections, I turn in Section V to the question of unity for simple material objects. Here a different and more radical account is needed, for simples, since they do not have structural properties, are not subsumed by the account of Section IV. I defend the view that a simple object just is a simple property, so that identity delivers the desired unity. (shrink)
It is becoming increasingly clear that the deepest problems currently exercising philosophers of mind arise from an ill-begotten ontology, in particular, a mistaken ontology of properties. After going through some preliminaries, we identify three doctrines at the heart of this mistaken ontology: (P) For each distinct predicate, “F”, there exists one, and only one, property, F, such that, if “F” is applicable to an object a, then “F” is applicable in virtue of a’s being F. (U) Properties are universals, not (...) particulars. (D) Every property is either categorical or dispositional, but not both. We show how these doctrines influence current philosophical thinking about the mind, suggest and defend an alternative conception of properties, and indicate how this conception provides answers to two puzzles besetting contemporary philosophy of mind: the problem of mental causation and the problem of qualia. (shrink)
Philosophy of Mind: Contemporary Readings is a comprehensive anthology that draws together leading philosophers writing on the major topics within philosophy of mind. Robb and O'Connor have carefully chosen articles under the following headings: *Substance Dualism and Idealism *Materialism *Mind and Representation *Consciousness Each section is prefaced by an introductory essay by the editors which guides the student gently into the topic in which leading philosophers are included. The book is highly accessible and user-friendly and provides a broad-ranging exploration of (...) the subject. Ideal for any philosophy student, this book will prove essential reading for any philosophy of mind course. The readings are designed to complement John Heil's Philosophy of Mind:A Contemporary Introduction, (Routledge 1998), although the anthology can also be used as a stand-alone volume. (shrink)
Almost thirty years ago, in an attempt to undermine what he termed "the principle of alternate possibilities" (the thesis that people are morally responsible for what they have done only if they could have done otherwise), Harry Frankfurt offered an ingenious thought-experiment that has played a major role in subsequent work on moral responsibility and free will. Several philosophers, including David Widerker and Robert Kane, argued recently that this thought-experiment and others like it are fundamentally flawed. This paper develops a (...) new Frankfurt-style example that is immune to their objections. [Reprinted in Laura Waddell Ekstrom, ed., Agency and Responsibility: Essays on the Metaphysics of Freedom (Westview Press, 2001), pp. 241-54; and in John Martin Fischer, ed., Free Will, Vol. III (Routledge, 2005), pp. 330-42.]. (shrink)
This is a critical review of six books: Peter Carruthers, _Language, Thought, and Consciousness; David Chalmers, _The Conscious Mind; Fred Dretske, _Naturalizing the Mind; Steven Horst, _Symbols, Computation and Intentionality; Jaegwon Kim, _Philosophy of Mind; and Michael Tye, _Ten Problems of Consciousness. The review focuses on what these authors have to say about consciousness.
Recent discussions of mental causation have focused on three principles: (1) Mental properties are (sometimes) causally relevant to physical effects; (2) mental properties are not physical properties; (3) every physical event has in its causal history only physical events and physical properties. Since these principles seem to be inconsistent, solutions have focused on rejecting one or more of them. But I argue that, in spite of appearances, (1)–(3) are not inconsistent. The reason is that 'properties' is used in different senses (...) in the principles. In (1) and (3), 'properties' should be read as 'tropes' (properties here are particulars), while in (2) 'properties' should read as 'types' (properties here are universals or classes). Although mental types are distinct from physical types, every mental trope is a physical trope. This allows mental properties to be causally relevant to physical effects without violating the closed character of the physical world. (shrink)